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Jazz CD Reviews
14 December 1999

By Mike Zwerin in Paris

CHARLIE MARIANO, Savannah Samurai (jazzline)
Recorded in Cologne, the Boston born, Berklee bred veteran of Stan Kenton, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Charles Mingus is playing with more conviction than ever. After having emigrated to Japan and then Germany and working with Japanese and German musicians, his alto saxophone sounds like a well-traveled cross between Bud Shank and Ornette Coleman. The sound has been described as "voluptuous austerity."


KELLY JOE PHELPS, "Shine Eyed Mister Zen" (Rykodisc)
Phelps, says singer/songwriter Steve Earle, creates blues that are "smoky and painful, yet somehow comforting. He lets you know that you are not alone." For the guitarist Bill Frisell, Phelps sounds like he's "coming from the inside out. The bottom up. He seems to have tapped into the artery somehow. There's a lot going on in between and behind the notes."


ALI FARKA TOURE, "Niafunke" (WCD)
Some people say they do not listen to so-called world music because it comes from other cultures and it is presumptuous on our part to pretend we understand it. Toure's first album in five years was recorded in his village on the banks of the Niger River at the edge of the Sahara, he calls it "deep Mali." It is hauntingly spare, very moving, deeply rooted and quite understandable. One risks a cliché saying it, but you can hear the roots of the blues.


TAJ MAHAL AND TOUMANI DIABATE, ‘Kulanjan" (Hannibal)
A warm Spring night, a quiet street in Athens, Georgia. Greeting them in fluent French, bluesman Taj joined kora master Diabate and his Malian friends who were jamming on a porch. The Malians were delighted with his take on the well-known kora piece, "Kaira." Then when he played some blues, transcending cultural boundaries, they fell in easily with him. More rich roots, we are lucky lately.


BILL EVANS, "Homecoming" (Milestone)
Live at Southeastern Louisiana University in 1979, it was the pianist's first concert at his alma mater since graduating with honors 29 years earlier. Among too many Bill Evans trio albums on the market, this is one to search for and to keep. It was a special night


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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