by Mike Zwerin
Lacking towering figures, these are days for picking up the pieces. All-star packages of virtuosi play newly digested versions of jewels written by former towering figures. Quality and commerce merge on the following.
THE MUSIC OF JIMI HENDRIX, In From The Storm
The traffic lights, they turn blue tomorrow. Maybe the record of the year. Enthusiastic, reverent, eclectic new thrusts without simulation or pretention in that place where rock, blues, funk and jazz meet as music. Sting (singing) and John McLaughlin playing The Wind Cries Mary. The London Metropolitan Orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen doing, among others, Little Wing and Spanish Castle Magic with, for example, Carlos Santana, Taj Mahal, Tony Williams and Toots Thielemans. Buddy Miles, Bootsy Collins and Steve Lukather romp on Purple Haze. Hats off too to Billy Cox, Noel Redding and producer Eddie Kramer. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
GRP ALL-STARS: (I Got No Kick Against) Modern Jazz
The awkward and unpoetic title of this assemblage reflects just about everything I dislike about GRP Records. The album features heavyweight figures in "Contemporary Jazz" - a chart category meaning less adventure and bigger sales than just-plain jazz - interpreting songs by the Beatles. GRP Records specializes in this vulgar, easy listening cash-at-all-costs category and they seem to have come up with this tasteful and deep concept almost by accident.
Jazz musicians once considered a song by the Beatles a priori a dumb song. But here George Benson, Chick Corea, Tom Scott, Spyro Gyra, Ramsey Lewis and Arturo Sandoval playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Yesterday, She's Leaving Home, Eleanor Rigby and so on illustrate that, like Hendrix, the Beatles wrote quality standards by any standard.
Those who ring their hands and cry that real songwriting died with Cole Porter are just-plain wrong.
DAVE BRUBECK, Young Lions And Old Tigers
Celebrating his 70th birthday, Brubeck gets together with James Moody (also 70), Christian McBride (22), Jon Hendricks, Roy Hargrove, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman and others of all ages. Somebody suggested substituting "wise" for "old" in the title but Brubeck equates the two.
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