Author

K. Leander Williams

LIVE in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1

Miles Davis | PREMIX Davis displays his uncanny ability to reinterpret his songs with each play

Back when bootlegs carried the cachet of backwoods moonshine, collectors obsessed over the marvelous concerts on this DVD/three-CD set. Circa 1967, the jazz icon was still playing acoustic, and his final quintet would rejigger the standards and originals dramatically on a nightly basis. The set lists may have looked similar, but here’s proof they didn’t sound alike — and that they’ll still get you mighty high. A

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Hold On Tight

Solomon Burke | GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN Solomon Burke

When veteran soul behemoth Burke died suddenly last October in an Amsterdam airport, he was there to gig with De Dijk, his Dutch collaborators on the follow-up to last year’s Grammy-nominated triumph Nothing’s Impossible. Hold On Tight’s horn-spiked blues-rock is outfitted with more raucous textures than its balladic predecessor, yet De Dijk manage to smooth out Burke’s craggy, weathered croak. King Solomon, R.I.P. B+

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Bird Songs

The presence of bass beauty Esperanza Spalding in tenor-sax veteran Joe Lovano?s new Us Five ensemble is just one sign the quintet has the fire of youth in its belly. (Another is Havana-bred drummer Francisco Mela.) On Bird Songs, Us Five revisit the snaky music of bebop icon Charlie ”Bird” Parker (”Ko Ko,” ”Donna Lee”), but the vintage tunes inspire riskier improvs from Lovano, even when his rhythm section adheres to more straight-edged accompaniment. B+

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Olympia

The Roxy Music frontman?s latest solo album opens with soft-focus keyboard that harks back to 1982?s Avalon, so it seems ? almost inevitable when Roxy cohorts Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno, and Andy Mackay wander in later. (Chic?s Nile Rodgers and Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea also drop by.) Finding true love has never come easy to Ferry, but his famed warble still revels in elusive, discofied romance. B+

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Tin Can Trust

MATTER OF TIME Los Lobos

Who says comfortable rockers can’t write convincingly about working stiffs from their old hoods? That doesn’t seem to be an issue for Los Lobos on Tin Can Trust: The barrio strivers throughout Trust are as vivid now as they were decades ago. Unfortunately, the characters are linked to somewhat generic roadhouse blues, even when it’s spiced with norteño and Colombian cumbia. It’s as if the band is content to just kick that tin can a little bit further down the road. B

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Jasmine

Duke Ellington once titled a piece ”Reminiscing in Tempo,” and there may be no better description of the candlelit lyricism on this reunion between jazz icons Keith Jarrett (piano) and Charlie Haden (bass). Jasmine has the intimate feel of a private concert, so it’s almost as if you’re eavesdropping on old friends having a conversation about the brilliance of standards like ”For All We Know” and ”Body and Soul.” A

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Once Upon a Time in Senegal -- The Birth of Mbalax 1979 - 1981

Rock in Senegal was about channeling Cuban rumba until N’Dour cofounded Etoile de Dakar in 1979. The shift — from pungent horns and timbales to fuzzed-up guitars and punchy drums — ?created mbalax, the genre showcased by these two CDs, Once Upon a Time in Senegal – The Birth of Mbalax 1979-1981. N’Dour isn’t the only fine singer here, but his vocals persistently raise the energy. A?

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Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

Bettye LaVette | WISH YOU WERE HERE Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette has exquisite taste in songs and the gravelly delivery to wring every bit of meaning from their lyrics. The combination is superlative on Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, whether her readings of classics by the Who, the Stones, and others are stripped-down and earthy or string-laden and grand. Sometimes torchy and always gut-wrenching, her knowing rasp pushes the album onto terra firma between the blues and power pop. A?

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Yesterday You Said Tomorrow

Jazz’s current youth movement clearly has different prerogatives than its predecessor. Where Wynton Marsalis’ buzzword was tradition, for trumpeter Christian Scott, the action is in the streets and over the airwaves, as borne out by his third disc’s politically charged song titles and Thom Yorke cover. On Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, Scott’s muted tone often echoes Miles Davis’, and his guitar-animated quintet can get raucous. Pianist Milton Fletcher is the disc’s traffic cop, standing at Scott’s intersection of past and future. A?

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Twelve Nights in Hollywood

Ella Fitzgerald, Twelve Nights in Hollywood | THINGS AIN'T WHAT THEY USED TO BE Ella Fitzgerald

Remember when nightclubs had kitschy-cool names like the Blue Angel and the Crescendo? Perhaps not, but one great thing about labels with long histories is that revisiting those days is just a CD away. And so, from deep ? within the vaults at Verve comes this four-CD time capsule, Twelve Nights in Hollywood, which captures First Lady of Scat Ella Fitzgerald and her swinging quartet livin’ it up during extended engagements at the long-?gone hot spot/celebrity magnet the Crescendo. The years are 1961 and 1962, every track previously unreleased. File under: Neat-o.

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