Seeds We Sow
4 stars (out of 4)
There are two Lindsey Buckinghams. One of them is largely responsible for the commercial onslaught that is the most successful lineup of Fleetwood Mac -- the version that gave us "Rumours," "Tusk" and "Tango In the Night," records clearly marked with the sonic and songwriting imprimatur of Buckingham. The other is a mad scientist of avant-garde pop music, a recording studio genius and virtuoso finger-style guitarist whose solo albums are celebrations of both sunny pop and weirdly wonderful esoterica.
Buckingham No. 2 is the man responsible for the transcendent "Seeds We Sow," a one-man-band 4affair tracked by Buckingham in his home studio and released on his just-launched boutique label, Mind Kit.
This is quite simply some of Buckingham's finest work, and is also his strongest solo album since the flawless "Out of the Cradle" collection, released in 1992. Gorgeously evocative stacks of vocal harmonies, jaw-dropping layers of guitar arpeggios, and surprising hiccups and left turns on the compositional end of things all conspire to make "Seeds" at once familiar and dizzyingly, joyously unsettling.
"That's the Way Love Goes," "Rock Away Blind," "Stars Are Crazy," "In Our Own Time" -- these are pop mini-symphonies, and rank among the always reliable Buckingham's finest songs. Buy this.
-- Jeff Miers
Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton
Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center
I'm not sure who wins here. Wynton Marsalis fans are likely to assume that the jazz giant is slumming it with a "rock guy" like Eric Clapton. Clapton-heads, on the other hand, probably could have done with more guitar solos from their man on "Play the Blues."
But guess what? I don't think either man cares. This album has "labor of love" written all over it. It is an honest, forthright and open-hearted paean to prewar blues and New Orleans jazz, and there is nothing condescending in the manner of Marsalis' and his band's treatment of Clapton. In fact, Marsalis had Clapton pick the set list for this Lincoln Center gig, and in the disc's liner notes, he praises the guitarist's "encyclopedic knowledge" of the blues and its history.
Opening with Louis Armstrong's "Ice Cream," the band -- Marsalis' Lincoln Center ensemble, joined by Clapton and his pianist Chris Stainton -- immediately makes it plain that a mixture of reverence and jubilant celebration will be the order of the day. A take on W.C. Handy's "Joe Turner's Blues" affords Clapton the opportunity for a typically eloquent and achingly emotional solo. During Bessie Smith's "Careless Love," the blend of blues-soaked guitar stabs with the ensemble's rugged brass section is pure New Orleans strut.
Even a take on Clapton's "Layla" -- apparently something Clapton himself was more than hesitant to bring to the table -- manages to avoid sounding tired and trite. In fact, the song shines in this new arrangement, its own connection to the prewar blues underscored with the help of these fine musicians, who march "Layla" right into the French Quarter.
This could have been a train wreck. That it's not is a testament to the deep love all concerned have for the blues. Beautiful.
-- Jeff Miers
3 1/2 stars
Under any circumstances at all, new discs by Stanley Jordan are major jazz occasions.
This one is all of that and then some. We're used to everyone and their stepbrother making discs full of guest stars but no matter what, the singular jazz guitarist has an awfully impressive roster of guests joining him on individual cuts: Kenny Garrett, Charlie Hunter, Regina Carter, Ronnie Laws, Russell Malone, Christian McBride, Charnett Moffett, Nicholas Payton, Bucky Pizzarelli and Mike Stern.
Some of them (Moffett) are associates of long standing. And some are precious new guitar friends from the ranks of living guitar immortals -- Pizzarelli, for instance, who is, at the very least, the greatest now living in the oft-lost art of playing rhythm guitar (who is quite suitably heard with Jordan on Neal Hefti's "Lil' Darlin' " and Jordan and Malone on a phenomenally hot version of Charlie Christian's "Seven Come Alone.")
You get the usual, almost bewildering platoon of Jordans on this disc -- the incendiary bebop composer/player who can turn on players as blistering as Garrett and Payton on "Capital J" and then turn around and concoct a version of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" with Stern that lightens all previous known versions (helped in no small measure by drummer Kenwood Dennard playing brushes).
You get a guitarist with a unique sound who can explore themes by Debussy and Bartok without sloshing his way through kitsch and, get this now, turn Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl (And I Liked It)" into serious gospel funk while playing piano and guitar simultaneously behind fellow guitarist Hunter -- and then solo on guitar in accustomed Jordan style.
Jordan's first fame in jazz took him up from the streets as a street musician to a phenomenal technical innovation ("hammering on" in which he virtually played the guitar as if it had a piano keyboard).
In an era where creditable jazz improvisers are proving repeatedly to be less than inspirational as jazz composers, Jordan proves himself here to be a composer almost worthy of the company of Jordan the player.
Just ask soloists Hunter, Garrett, Payton, Laws and Carter, all wailing on Jordan tunes. A very fine disc.
-- Jeff Simon
Live At The Met
Anna Netrebko, soprano, with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
3 1/2 stars
What sets this CD apart from other opera greatest-hits collections -- Bellini, Donizetti, etc. -- is a beautiful aria from Prokofiev's "War and Peace." The opera sounds so onerous, but this aria is glorious. Anna Netrebko brings just the right weight to the music.
Even in material not quite to your taste -- Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette," for instance, always strikes me as lightweight for its subject -- she has drama and conviction, and it's a pleasure to hear.
You get to hear briefly -- and see, in the booklet, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, always a plus. The disc ends with two warhorse excerpts from "La Boheme." Piotr Beczala, as Rodolfo, and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra both partner her for a performance of tremendous sensitivity. The booklet has texts as well as dozens of photos of the diva living her dream.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman