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CD LISTENING POST
BRIEF REVIEWS OF SELECT RELEASES

Soul

Solomon Burke, "Make Do With What You Got" (Shout! Factory). Following his Joe Henry-produced 2002 "comeback" album "Don't Give Up On Me," the king of soul returns with "Make Due With What You Got," another record brimming with gospel-tinged soul and R&B-infused rock, and marked by Burke's sensual voice, one of the finest in the history of his genre. He tackles Bob Dylan's "What Good Am I?" with throaty aplomb, breathes new life into the Rolling Stones' "I've Got the Blues," and generally tugs the heartstrings with seemingly effortless mastery throughout. Burke is very much an artist in the present tense. Review: 4 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Miers)

Rock

The High Speed Scene, "The High Speed Scene" (Star Trak/Interscope). Finally, a genuine rock 'n' roll band emerges from Los Angeles, one that seems wholly intent on ignoring glossy radio-rock and Cali punk-pop with equal bullheadedness. Instead, this smarty-pants trio - vocalist/guitarist Max Hart, bassist Damon Vajevec, drummer Adam Aaronson - focuses on gritty melodies, killer guitar riffs, and a fat-free, hook-heavy sense of the song. Such an approach was enough to impress Chad Hugo and Pharell Williams - aka the Neptunes - who signed the band to their Star Trak label without ever having seen them live. Instantly likable, funny and smart, High Speed Scene is an old-school rock band disguised as a snotty modern-day outfit. Review: 3 stars (J.M.)

Pop

Toni Braxton, "Un-Break My Heart: The Remix Collection" (LaFace/Legacy). You get exactly what the title suggests here - Toni Braxton's biggest dance hits remixed to be even more club-friendly by a cast of hipster characters including Junior Vasquez, Frankie Knuckles and HQ2. Braxton's uber-ballad "Un-Break My Heart" is now a club raver; "Spanish Guitar" sounds like an ensemble of robots attempting something vaguely resembling a bossa nova - it's actually kind of cool!; "I Don't Want To" is wisely remixed in a fashion that doesn't interfere too much with the warmth and sensuality of Braxton's fine vocal performance. Braxton blows away the majority of modern-day dance divas, because she sings with soul and sophistication and foregoes flash and filigree; as a result, this is one of the more satisfying dance mixes to come along in quite awhile. Review: 3 stars (J.M.)

Jazz

Kenny Wheeler with Chris Potter, John Taylor and Dave Holland, "What Now?" (CamJazz). A better question: why no drummer? Kenny Wheeler, the fluegelhorn master originally from St. Catherines, told veteran notater Ira Gitler "without the cymbal sound, you hear things" and joked "this CD could be Music Minus One for drummers." I'll say. The loudest presence on the disc is the absence of what an artful and creative drummer (a Jack DeJohnette or even a Billy Kilson) could have brought to it. Even without one, these players are playing to a drummer's dynamic ebb and flow. But what players they are: Potter and Wheeler, as powerful and expressive players as there is in chamber jazz, with a British pianist of renowned sensitivity and one of the greatest living jazz bassists. Review: 3 stars (Jeff Simon)

Classical

Bartok, "The Miraculous Mandarin" (Complete Ballet), Dance Suite and Hungarian Pictures, performed by the Bournemoth Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Marin Alsop (Naxos). Almost a century after the fact, no contemporary composer has yet figured out a way to roil the blood and ignite the nerve-endings as did the primal giants of 20th century dissonance in their great ballets - Bartok and his stalking-horse-in-outrage Stravinsky. Bartok's complete "Miraculous Mandarin" isn't performed as often as the suite and seldom with the roughneck style Marin Alsop brings to it here, with slurring trombones, screaming woodwinds and wordless chorus. What it lacks in artfulness, it makes up in vivid truth - and, therefore, art. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)

John Rutter, "Gloria, with Magnificat and Psalm," performed by the Choir of King's College Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College Choir, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Stephen Cleobury, conductor (EMI Classics). A couple of years ago, the Ars Nova Musicians performed John Rutter's Magnificat at St. Joseph's Cathedral. Marylouise Nanna, on that occasion, described the music as full of Broadway pizazz. It's a perfect description. From the fluttery flutes to the soaring, sunny vocal lines, Rutter's music seems lit from within not only by faith, but also by neon. The bold, sunny fanfares that begin his Gloria or the Psalm 150 wouldn't be out of place as Olympic themes; the declamatory, syncopated vocal lines call to mind bright primary colors. The soprano solo in the "Esurientes" passage of the Magnificat, with its tender, rocking motion and discreet harp accompaniment, hovers just this side of movie music. Psalm 150 has a glittery sheen with cymbals, snare drums and organ, which Rutter manages almost to turn, jazz style, into a percussion instrument. These performances brim with a bright energy, creating a deft balance between today's bright, fast-paced times and the reverence of past centuries. Review: 4 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)