By Mike Zwerin in Paris
PRINCE, "The Vault....Old Friends 4 Sale" (WB)
material composed between 1985 and 1994, recorded in Minneapolis, Los
Angeles, Paris and Tokyo, seems to be coming from some exotic, faraway
place where intelligent popular music is still being made. A "made
in Germany" package, "originally intended 4 private use
only." Good songs, well sung and arranged (one by Clare Fischer),
and played by such key side-people as Michael B and Sheila E.
CLOONEY/DUKE ELLINGTON, "Blue Rose" (Columbia/Legacy)
Speaking of intelligent pop music well sung and arranged, try this
reissue from 1956. Clooney's sensitive versions of singular Ellington
standards like "Mood Indigo," "It Don't Mean A Thing
(If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Sophisticated Lady"are
accompanied by his franchise orchestra at its most orchestral - with
Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Cat Anderson, Clark Terry, Jimmy Woode
and the others. You might almost call it a song- cycle.
BLACKMAN, "In The Now" (High Note)
also works with rock star Lenny Kravitz, is one of today's better jazz
drummers. Teamed with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, the pianist Jacky
Terrasson and with Ron Carter on bass - all in sparkling form - she
has come up with one of the year's better releases. Fresh, smart,
swinging - the way it ought to be.
MIKE WESTBROOK, "Glad
Day - Settings of William Blake" (Enja/2-CDs)
of the veteran English pianist, arranger and leader Westbrook has long
been tied to cultural, political and social awareness. His musical
settings for Blake's poetry are, as described by the notes, "sturdy
and fitting and leave space for Blake's ambiguity, irony and imagery."
Accompanied by a children's choir and harmonically adventurous solos,
the poetry is sung and recited by Westbrook's wife Kate, and by the
bluesy art-song singer Phil Minton.
Mike Zwerin has
been jazz and rock critic for the International Herald Tribune for the
last twenty years. He was also the European correspondent for The
Village Voice. Mike Zwerin is the author of several books on jazz and
the jazz editor of Culturekiosque.com.
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