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by Mike Zwerin

RAY CHARLES: Strong Love Affair

A new law requires that a minimum of 40% of the music played on French media be French. Is a (major) album, 75% of which was recorded in France, by an African American singing (great new songs) in English co-produced (with Charles) by a Frenchman (Jean-Pierre Grosz) French or what? While the suits are busy trying to figure all of that out, music remains the international language, swing is universal and the "Genius of Soul" has never been more soulful and genial.

CHARLES MINGUS: The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady

Gospel shouts, funk baselines, Ellingtonian growls, Latin riffs - Saturday night and Sunday morning too. "Mingus is the Black Saint who suffers for his sins and those of mankind," the liner notes read, "as he reflects his deeply religious philosophy. His music tells of his deep yearning for love, peace and freedom." Which may be (deeply true. Mingus once said he considered "Black Saint" his best record, and this too may be true.

JOAO BOSCO: Da Licensa Meu Senhor
Accompanied by soft samba skipping along like a pebble on a pond behind acoustic instruments inlcuding his own guitar, the Brazilian star Bosco sings Portugese lyrics - Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil among others- which do not have to be understood to get.


A mere 19 tracks from over 60 records covering 22 years from "Joe's Garage," "Bobby Brown goes Down" and "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" through "Valley Girl" leaves listeners licking their chops for more. Some adjectives from the album notes pretty much tell the story: "Goofy, poignant, genre-jumping, surly, challenging, outrageous, idiosyncratic, dissonant, madcap, post-modernist..."

ORNETTE COLEMAN: Chappaqua Suite

This is sort of like discovering the lost chord. In June, 1965, 11 studio musicians joined Ornette Coleman, David Izenzon, bass, Charles Moffett, drums and guest Pharaoh Sanders to record a soundtrack for Conrad Rook's film "Chappaqua (starring, among others, William Burroughs). It swings so hard with such overpowering musicality that Rooks commissioned a second score so as not to compete with his images. First time on CD, in French release only (even the original LP was a limited edition), this suite plays second fiddle to nothing or nobody.

FRANK SINATRA: Everything Happens To Me

Recorded in the '60s and '70s, his prime, these 19 versions of standards can be felt down your back. He wes indeed "The Voice" - one of the most sublime musical instruments of our time. Lester Young said that if he had a big band he would hire Sinatra and Billie Holiday as vocalists.

(Blue Note)

The trio's funk-tinged jazz is constructed around the leader's eight-string guitar. He's better seen while heard - it's hard to believe all that sound is being built with eight strings - but better heard - alone than not at all.

Coming from their oral tradition, Africans call black shorthand symbols on white paper "paper music." Without wanting to sound condescending, like Keith Jarrett laying Bach, it is surprising that McFerrin proves to be so good at it. One of the most distinctive vocalists on the planet, he has in the past teamed up with Chick Corea, Meredith Monk, Yo-Yo Ma and the Muppets. after spending a lot of time and effort learning how to wield a baton, he was appointed "Creative Chair" of the renowned Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, which he conducts here. Works by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Fauré, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Mc Ferrin's voice replaces certain solo instruments.


The avant-garde guitarist Frisell has staked out an elliptical style between the cracks - part Hendrix, Zappa, Metheny, Segovia, Stockhausen, Sonny Rollins and Spike Jones and wholly himself. recorded in the Teatro Lope de Vega, Seville, Spain; with Kermit Driscoll, bass, and the bad young drummer Joey Baron.

RAY LEMA: Green Light

The renowned Zairean composer, singer and pianist singing in five African languages. With touches of spirituals, keyboard classicism and the blues, Lema goes from melancholy to humor supported by a cool female choir, discreet percussion and pygmy vocal selections.
Photo: Pierre Terrasson

STEVE LACEY: Reflections
(New Jazz)

The world's premier soprano saxophonist playing the music of Thelonius Monk in Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1958. At the time, he played only Monk tunes, and he knew the right chords to all fifty-some-odd of them. (Mal Waldron, piano, Buell Neidlinger, bass, Elvin Jones, drums.)

MULGREW MILLER: Getting To Know You

The jazz piano player's jazz piano player. Smart, swaggering, spiffy trio renditions - including the album's title song, from My Fair Lady, Lennon and McCartney's Fool On The Hill and Freddie Hubbard's Sweet Sioux.

MILT JACKSON: Burnin' In The Woodhouse

Like Toots Thielemans and the harmonica, Milt Jackson is a franchise player who took the vibraphone out of the miscellaneous instrument category by blowing it like a horn. Thanks to Quincy Jones, whose label this is, for investing in straight-ahead excellence. Thanks also to Joshua Redman, Nicholas Payton, Benny Green, Christian McBride and Kenny Washington - funky young burners all.


Three Brazilians - Gismonti, guitars and piano; Nando Carneiro, guitar and synthesizer; Zeca Assumpcao, double-bass - playing what might be called avant garde Brazilian chamber jazz. Are there any bad musicians in Brazil? These are bad Brazilians.
Photo: Wilton Montenegro

With enough charm, lightweight can be unbinding rather than trivial. Kanza was born in Zaire and studied classical guitar at Kinshasha Conservatory. Playing and/or singing, he has participated in albums by Manu Dibango, Youssou N'Dour, Papa Wamba and Ray Lema. There are apparent influences from West Africa, Brazil, Jamaica and Memphis. Fourteen songs sung by a silky voice in three languages in a folk chamber setting add up to an attractive new world music star. Multiple play recommended, the charm is increasingly seductive.

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