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Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases


Tierney Sutton Band, "Desire" (Telarc). Carefully -- and joyfully -- note how the beautiful and seductive singer has always billed herself i.e. as the leader of a jazz band, not a star jazz vocalist in the ridiculously overpopulated star jazz vocalist's trade. And if you had a regular band like Tierney Sutton's, you might too. Her pianist/arranger Christian Jacob, especially, is a fountain of brave and rare ideas of how to sing very standard standards and how to improvise when Sutton finishes the first chorus. With her seductive and breathy voice, Sutton is a very witty and clever programmer too. This disc of "Desire" songs has everything from "Fever" and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" (which Sutton relishes for the melody that jazz musicians love rather than the wickedly witty lyrics) to "Whatever Lola Wants" and a non-torch "Cry Me A River" that would have surprised the night lights out of Julie London. Review: 3 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Simon)


Denny Zeitlin, "The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions" (Mosaic Select, three discs by mail from Denny Zeitlin at 70 is still one of the great jazz piano originals, as his recent live Sunnyside disc "In Concert" so abundantly proved. And that makes his astounding and ageless first recorded trio performances from 4 1/2 decades ago that much more dazzling. Zeitlin's "Cathexis" from 1964 was one of the greatest piano debuts of its era. In both its assured compositions and Zeitlin's dazzling velocity and seemingly inexhaustible modal inventiveness as a player, he seemed, in the mid- and late '60s infinitely more promising than Keith Jarrett and absolutely on par with Chick Corea in his first record as a leader, "Tones for Joan's Bones." All came from Bill Evans and had heard George Russell and McCoy Tyner, but Zeitlin's subsequent jazz piano career took a back seat to his day job as a practicing psychiatrist. These first three Columbia trio sessions were terrific. And in its reissue of them, Mosaic has added a full hour of previously unreleased music, some of it new and some of it worthy alternate takes of what we already know. A good three-quarters of the music recorded now in jazz (or any other genre) doesn't sound half as fresh as these jazz piano trio performances still do. Review: 4 stars (J.S.)


Abdullah Ibrahim, "Senzo: Solo Piano" (Sunnyside). After Duke Ellington "discovered" the great South African composer/pianist in Paris under his original name Dollar Brand (Ellington was practically kidnapped to a live performance by the pianist's wife), he spent many decades as the greatest South African artist in exile from his country's apartheid. As Abdullah Ibrahim, he became one of the greatest of all jazz composers and one of its most lyrical pianists. Soon to be 75, he is now South Africa's greatest musician, one of the greatest living jazz musicians and almost as much a living symbol of triumph over apartheid as Nelson Mandela. Ibrahim, as a composer, obviously has close bloodlines to Ellington (as, of course, so do Billy Strayhorn and Charles Mingus) but as a pianist his lyricism and gospel consonance make him a forerunner of what Keith Jarrett became so famous for. "Senzo" here translates into "ancestor" in the Orient, and it's also his father's name. If not as ravishingly and memorably melodic as some Ibrahim discs, it still has a gorgeousness that's unique among jazz musicians. On sale Tuesday. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)



Erik Satie, Avant-dernieres pensees (Next to last thoughts) performed by pianist Alexandre Tharaud and friends (Harmonia Mundi, two discs). Time performs the greatest wonders of all. All those Erik Satie titles that might once have seemed the apex of whimsy and phantasmagoria can now be individuated into discreet parts that are altogether different. Satie's "Next to Last Thoughts" has a whole historic and melancholy connotation now when used as a title for one disc of Satie's solo piano music and another of his duos, whether songs with voices or another pianist. The young French pianist is most impressive in the piano music where he avoids both the trances of Reinbert deLeuuw and the wiseacre boisterousness that some pianists think passes for modernist avant-gardism. The songs are rather more problematic -- though the performance of the great Satie two-piano masterpiece "Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear" is a beautiful one. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)


>World music

Jon Hassell, "Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In the Street" (ECM). If Jon Hassell did indeed set out several decades back to create an idiosyncratic strain of music that would fit neatly into no single category, he has by now succeeded. In a career that found him studying in both Buffalo and Rochester, traveling to India to fully digest the glorious micro-tonal intricacies of that country's music, earning both respect and scorn in the jazz community, and becoming a first-call for the more esoteric and discerning class of rock musicians, (David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno), Hassell has played by no one's rules but his own. If that meant delving into ambient sounds, or treating his trumpet to a lavish buffet of effects devices, or attempting to phrase his solos like an Indian Kiranic singer, well, then so be it. With "Last Night the Moon Came dropping Its Clothes In the Street," Hassell and his band, Maarifa Street, delve into a protean, constantly morphing melange of sound. Far from formless and nowhere near "new age," the group weaves a dreamy tapestry of sound assimilating African, Indian and American forms, all presented with a serial composer's conception of time and space. Hassell in fact studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen and the late Stockhausen's tendency to create scenarios of "controlled randomness" in his pieces hangs above Hassell and company's efforts here. This is beautiful, evocative, often transcendent music, but most importantly, it's also substantive; though he's been accused of merely doodling in the dippy ooze of new age music, Hassell is in fact a radical who can be seen to have carried on the work started by Miles Davis with the albums "In a Silent Way" and "On the Corner," with much more of an emphasis on the European influences than the African-American ones. You get as much out of "Last Night the Moon Came" as you put into the listening experience. It is, as the saying goes, a real trip. Review: 4 stars (Jeff Miers)


>Hip Hop

The Beastie Boys, "Paul's Boutique: 20th Anniversary Edition" (Capitol). Time has been awfully kind to the Beastie Boys' second effort. Originally considered a trio of jokesters given to "frat-hop" indulgences -- with good reason; this was the group responsible for "Fight For Your Right (to Party)," after all -- the Beasties blew minds when they dropped "Paul's Boutique," an ambitious mess of a record that offered proof there was more to the group than many thought. With its radical approach to sampling, Dust Brothers-based groove construction and wide variety of lyrical topics, the album set the standard for the hip-hop of the past 20 years. It is one of only a few genuine hip-hop masterpieces. Review: 4 stars (J.M.)

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