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Listening Post: All-time great supergroup The Traveling Wilburys and new jazz trumpet player Marquis Hill

Folk rock

The Traveling Wilburys, “Collection” (Two discs plus documentary and videos on DVD, Wilbury/Concord Bicycle). The time has perhaps come for a different kind of career accounting for all four Beatles. All things considered, “The Quiet Beatle” George Harrison almost certainly made the greatest single contribution year by year in his lifetime to the cultural world around him. Just look, for instance, at the stunning output of his film company Handmade Films, from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” to “Mona Lisa” and “Withnail and I” to such obscure classics waiting for discovery as Tony Bill’s “Five Corners” (with a script by John Patrick Shanley). The Traveling Wilburys – the one rock supergroup that almost no one has ever questioned – may have been born among friends hanging out in Bob Dylan’s basement but it was Harrison who first got Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison to record with him for what was, initially intended as a singles B-side. When Warner biggies discovered a kind of rock Mt. Rushmore loved to hang out and make music together, they finished choking on their morning coffee and wondered if Harrison could, oh you know, get them together for an album? It was even better than that. The resultant first record wasn’t the greatest music that each had ever made individually, but it was awfully good and somewhat staggering how comfortable they all were together. It was recorded in the house and garden of Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, to boot. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” was considerable Dylan of the time and on “Not Alone Anymore” Roy Orbison was clearly not fooling around. It was an Orbison aria in classic style. Orbison’s death kept him from being on a second Wilbury disc but, rather wonderfully, didn’t stop them from making one. When it came out it was labeled tongue-in-cheek as Volume Three (after all, hadn’t there already been a bootleg for people who wanted a Volume Two?) That too was George’s idea, as were liner notes by Monty Pythonites. (“Dr. Arthur Noseputty of Cambridge believes they were closely related to the strangling dingleberries which is not a group but a disease” etc. George DID love his Python – “Time Bandits” and all.) Wilbury’s works are finally streaming online. In the meantime, here’s the whole non-bootlegged shebang on disc. Four stars out of four. (Jeff Simon)


Marquis Hill, “The Way We Play” (Concord Jazz) It’s nice that trumpet player Marquis Hill was the 2014 winner of the Thelonious Monk International competition. He’s 29 and he can certainly play. Unfortunately, these days, there’s so much generational anxiety about possible millennial antipathy to an emerging 29-year-old jazz player that spoken word and hip-hop are dragged in by the hair just to make sure that no young listener becomes too addled by being required to listen to – you know – just music. Specifically jazz, that musical form presumably waiting to look down on everyone. All of which is errant to the max, but its point may be reinforced here by vibraphonist Justin Thomas who plays the chordal instrument in this quintet (no piano or guitar). Hill’s alto saxophonist is Christian McBride’s son Christopher. The contributions of singer Meagan McNeal fall largely into the Anxiety About Listeners category. Hill likes jazz standards but he does interesting and sometimes creative things with them. The tempo of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” has been slowed down and been set in E-flat. As versions go, it’s unusual. The best thing on the album, by far, is the trio version of “Smile” with just bass and drums and drummer Makaya McCraven being uncommonly creative. Vibes-based groups are always a bit chilly sounding but when Hill plays with just his bassist and his drummer, he finally sounds as promising as people want him to be. Two and a half out of four stars. (Jeff Simon)