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Listening Post: Jazz bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius, jazz saxophonist Grace Kelly and Philip Glass.


“Jaco” Original Soundtrack (Columbia/Legacy). However well it may function as the soundtrack to the documentary movie about the late, doomed 12,000-fingered electric bass showoff (he died from a beating by a nightclub bouncer) , the music on this disc doesn’t begin to convey how Jaco Pastorius could electrify the musicians he played with and how they, in return, could elicit unbelievable music from him. For that, by all means listen to Weather Report’s recent box set “The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981.” That is the Jaco Pastorius who remains the object of veneration by his fellow musicians – when, that is, they are not salaaming in the direction of his Ft. Lauderdale tombstone in wonderment. His short, self-destructive and fractious life ended appallingly but that Weather Report box will let you hear how truly spectacular a musician he could be. You won’t really hear that here, as good as he is on, say, Joni Mitchell’s “Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” from her “Mingus” album (where, obviously, Pastorius on bass was crucial).

2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

– Jeff Simon


Grace Kelly, “Trying to Figure It Out” (Pazz). It turns out that, yes, there really are great emergent jazz musicians inhabiting Jon Batiste’s TV band for Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show,” just as there once were for David Letterman’s band (Will Lee, Hiram Bullock) and Johnny Carson’s and Jack Paar’s (Clark Terry, Doc Severinsen, Ernie Watts etc.) You will, if you look closely, find young alto and soprano saxophonist Grace Kelly there. You’ll find Batiste here on the last cut on this disc playing the giant melodica that he seems to call a “harmonaboard” (whatever it’s called, it’s only an adolescent version of a kid’s instrument – which would be wonderful when, say, Jimmy Fallon got his band, The Roots, to play it but is somewhat embarrassing as a regular ax for a late-night band leader.) When Kelly is good on this record, she’s very good and worth all the hosannas flung in her young direction. She isn’t just a worthwhile player, she’s an eccentric and individual one, paying tribute to crime novelist Michael Connelly’s protagonist Harry Bosch on a couple cuts and, even more interesting, paying tribute to her mentor, the sublime alto saxophonist Frank Morgan, an addict who spent far too much of his life in San Quentin. “Frank was a mentor and grandfather figure to me during the last couple years of his life” she writes of being moved at a concert she performed at the prison. Whether it’s a travesty to add a backbeat to “Amazing Grace,” as she does, I have no doubt that in her mind, she’s paying generational “tribute” to that too. However misguided Grace Kelly can be at her age – Art Tatum didn’t always have infallible taste in what to play or how to play it either – just listen to her play “Over the Rainbow,” among others, and you’ll be happy to cut her all the slack she wants.

3 stars (Out of 4)

– Jeff Simon


Glass, Symphony No. 9 performed by the Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Dennis Russell Davies (Orange Mountain Music). Among the more punishing and misleading myths about the music of Philip Glass is that listening to it can best be conveyed by a New Yorker cartoon – you know, the one with the fellow who tells his wife that he’s listening to Glass’ music and his eyes are whirling around in his head like pinwheels. While it’s true that his musical minimalism, at first, often eschewed the traditional changing dramatic content of music in the classical tradition, the increasing accommodations that Glass made to it over time got deeper and deeper. So deep in fact that no one could possibly mistake Glass’ intention to connect with musical tradition here in his ninth symphony. In his notes, conductor Dennis Russell Davies writes that “in 1992, I conducted the first performance of the ‘Low’ symphony by Philip Glass. We didn’t refer to it as a first symphony because we couldn’t anticipate there being others to follow. We should have known better.” Indeed they should. 23 years later, he now thinks Glass “the most varied” American symphonist he knows. After listening to this work, which is both tragic and stirring, it is inadvisable to argue. The kinship of post-modern minimalism to Baroque music seems ever more obvious in music like this.

3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

– Jeff Simon