“Now That’s What I Call Music 57” (Universal/ Sony).
These “Now That’s What I Call Music” anthologies of current hits are usually revealing disc anthologies collecting all the hottest sellers in a particular time. Few, if any, of us have heard all 57 discs in the series but I must say that in the 20 or so I’ve heard, this is by far the worst. Usually, there’s an Adele or a Lady Gaga or some other smash hit-maker in evidence to elevate the pop music pleasure quotient considerably but not here. When you hear Taylor Swift in her latest musical diary entry, “Wildest Dream” inquire about the current location of good men in the world, you’re hearing banality at a remarkable level presented with musical banality and no distinction whatsoever. This disc, many might offer, is exactly what a lot of people wouldn’t call music. It begins with Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and goes on from there. Featured in an over-produced clump of autotune dance oatmeal with almost identical harmonic and structural strategies are Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Coldplay, X Ambassadors, Flo Rida, Andy Grammer, Charlie Puth and Thomas Rhett. Only the latter two seem to bring human interest into the commercial equation. The six bonus tracks aren’t as commercially hot, of course, but are a bit better. Thank the Young Wild, Ben Rector, The Score, Frankie, Transviolet and Nicky Davey for that. Still, if this is an accurate picture of a current hit cycle, it’s in desperate need of a reality photobomb by someone – ANYONE.
1 1/2 stars (Out of 4).
– Jeff Simon
Lew Tabackin Trio, “Soundscapes” (CD Baby).
With Sonny Rollins in his mid-’80’s – and seemingly long past the desire to play in gymnastic pianoless trio – the most consistent master saxophonists to play in pianoless trio performances are Branford Marsalis and Lew Tabackin. Tabackin quotes his sarcastically witty old friend Zoot Sims about his method in this disc recorded by photographer Jimmy Katz “you turn on the tape and gets what you get.” His bassist is Boris Kozlov and his drummer is Mark Taylor. He plays three originals “B-Flat Where It’s At,” “Minolu” and “Garden at Life Time” which he calls a Japan trilogy. But it’s what he does with the standards and jazz classics that stand out – Kern’s “Yesterdays” (on flute, Strayhorn’s “Daydream,” Ellington’s “Sunset and the Mockingbird” (also on flute) and Harry Ruby’s “Three Little Worlds” an old Rollins favorite. As always, Tabackin plays lustily on flute but it’s his linear invention on tenor that puts him in classic contention for this particular instrumentation.
3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)
– Jeff Simon