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Listening Post / Brief reviews and select releases

>Pop

---- The Beach Boys, "That's Why God Made the Radio" (Capitol). The reunion of Brian Wilson with the remaining Beach Boys should be a completely glorious affair, though it comes late in the day for all concerned. Without Wilson steering the ship, the Mike Love-led band has become a bit of a ballpark-playing joke over the past few decades. Longtime fans long for something resembling Wilson's best work, a "Pet Sounds" or "Smile." They don't get that with "That's Why God Made the Radio" – such expectations are beyond unfair at this point – but the group sounds positively invigorated in stacked-harmony pop anthems like the title tune, "Spring Vacation" and "Summer's Gone," the last of which provides the album's heart-rending high point. Nice to have what's left of the Boys back together again. 3 stars (out of 4) (Jeff Miers)

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>Jazz

---- Pat Metheny, "Unity Band" (Nonesuch).The closest this tremendous band is coming to Buffalo this year is a Sept. 1 gig in Rochester's German House and an Oct. 10 gig at Onondaga Community College. And that's really a minor tragedy. Nothing against the ever-restless Metheny's Orchestrion Experiment (it's good to know that great musicians value what's venturesome about Buffalo's musical audiences), but this quartet with saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Antonio Sanchez is the most exciting band Metheny has had since the new millennium began. "This is a group of musicians who can do just about anything." he says, and you can take that to the bank. This is the first band he's had to feature a saxophonist since his legendary '80/'81 band which, somewhat miraculously, had a two-tenor front of Dewey Redman and Michael Brecker. What he says of Potter is inarguable: "As a fan, I have watched as he has become one of the greatest musicians of our time." Yes, this is a traditional jazz quartet in a way but the music is anything but traditional – unless, of course, you cede that constant freshness and surprise is the key jazz tradition. 3 stars (Jeff Simon)

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---- Ralph Peterson Fo'tet, "The Duality Perspective" (Onyx). The "Fo'tet" of drummer Ralph Petersen is his jocular street way of telling you he's leading a quartet (too latinate, eh what?). The disc's opener "One False Movie" is, accordingly, "Swunk," a combination of swing and funk, says Peterson. That's played by his quartet with bassist Alexander L.J. Toth, vibraphonist Joseph Doubleday and clarinetist Felix Peikli. The sound of the group is nothing if not chilly, but the playing is reasonably hot as the New Orleansians might have put it. Think of it as high-temperature chamber jazz. The sextet heard on the other half of the disc has Peterson leading a rhythm section of pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist Luques Curtis and a tenor-alto trumpet horn section of Walter Smith III, Tia Fuller and Sean Jones. It goes without saying, that's a much lustier-sounding group and the ensemble playing is tight even when the voicings are difficult. Think of the Peterson sextet as post-bop mainstream jazz from a kind of neo-neo-neo Art Blakey. 3 stars (J.S.)

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---- Virginia Mayhew Quartet, "Mary Lou Williams – The Next 100 Years with special guest Wycliffe Gordon" (Remma). "Soul on soul" was the immortal Duke Ellington description of the great music of composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams. She sums up in herself "the full essence of jazz," said Marian McPartland. And lest you think that's impossible hyperbole, remember that this woman who started out with Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy was, at the end of her life, appearing in duet with Cecil Taylor. Having a strong quartet investigate her tunes is nothing but a pleasure, especially when tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew was able to talk trombonist Wycliffe Gordon into being a guest star. The guitarist in the group, by the way, is Ed Cherry, whose long berth in Dizzy Gillespie's touring band began, of all places, with Cherry's very first gig with Dizzy in the Shea's Buffalo Theater. Dizzy was so happy with Cherry and his reception that he stayed with the band for most of Dizzy's latter years. Williams is among the many in jazz this year (Gil Evans is another) celebrating a centennial. And this is an infectious way for other musicians to get in on the action. 3 stars (J.S.)

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---- Bob Mintzer Big Band, "For the Moment" (McG Jazz). The quality of musicianship in this band is so high that it's hard not to wonder how they'd fare with the kind of extraordinarily challenging jazz orchestra arrangements that one hears consistently coming out of the European orchestras. None of which is to decry how good this disc of Brazilian repertoire is. Mintzer's band the Yellowjackets moved away from conventional knee-jerk fusion a long time ago. His big band has, in actuality, been around as an entity for a quarter of a century, and when you hear drummer Peter Erskine, percussionist Alex Acuna and his "Yellow Jacket" buddy pianist Russell Ferrante, you'll have no difficulty understanding why. Says Mintzer, "My conception in writing for big band is to create this feeling of a small group. I'm not really a big fan of loud, brash, big band writing, though I can appreciate that in small doses. But I tend to think of the band as a small group with orchestrational possibilities." The vocals by guitarist Chico Pinheiro are charming. 3 stars (J.S.)

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>Classical

---- Bach,Keyboard Concertos BWV-1052-1058 performed by Igor Kipnis, harpsichord and the London String Players conducted by Neville Marriner (Newton Clasics, two discs). These were, unquestionably, among the great Baroque recordings of their time, which was the late '60s and early '70s. They still sound superb in a new century, which is not necessarily something that can be said of other great harpsichord versions of Bach's keyboard concertos. Among the finest, then, that are available no matter how much competition there might be in harpsichord versions of Bach's keyboard concertos. 4 stars (J.S.)

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---- @Body copy rag:Beaux Arts Trio,Trio Recital 1960, Brahms Piano Trio No. 1, Ravel Trio in A Minor (Hanssler Classic). This recording so does not go with CD. The mellowed, rounded, antiqued edge sounded at odds with the digital clarity of the disc, and the music sounded thin and strangled. What a beautiful session this was. The performers' unhurried and lyrical approach only heightens the nostalgia of the Brahms (the trio is playing the original version, before Brahms revised it). Menahem Pressler gives excitement and poetry to the Ravel, which is like a different sound world. There are moments of pure magic. Pressler and his colleagues, violinist Daniel Guilet and cellist Bernard Greenhouse, strike a fine and delicate balance. I am grateful to Hanssler Classics for rereleasing this historic recording. I just wish the sound quality did it justice. 3 stars . (Mary Kunz Goldman)