Mindi Abair: Bloom

In previously reviewing Mindi Abair's "As Good As It Gets" (2002) and "Make a Wish" (2004), we lamely struggled with such categories as adult-alternative-crossover/nouveau-club-electronica/titanium-trendy/ trip-hop-techno-pop. Frankly, none of that does her justice. And it gives us a headache. So screw the labels. Let's just say this woman makes dynamite records. Sure, there're elements of club and electronica. And techno-pop isn't far off the mark. Plus, crossover goes without saying. But adult-alternative may be misleading, and trip-hop is simply wrong. Moreover, who knows what "titanium-trendy" even means? As far as we're concerned, reviewers who get hung up on labels are anagrammatically Anal. Right, Alan?

March 31, 2008 · 0 comments

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Philippe Saisse: Riviera

Ah, the Riviera. Casino-bound continentals alight from limos to win or lose vast fortunes with equal savoir faire. The Riviera, where Coco Chanel opened her villa out of season so that poor, defeated Winston Churchill could write his last, sad memoirs. Where Jean Cocteau drank F. Scott Fitzgerald under the baccarat table, and Brigitte Bardot slapped Joan Collins for calling her … well, discretion forbids. Soon we grow weary of Monaco, Nice and Cannes, and motor to Saint-Tropez. Merci, Philippe Saisse, for reminding us with your plush, luxurious musique that the good life goes on. Qui, le Riviera. C'est magnifique.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Mindi Abair: Make a Wish

Correction: In previously reviewing Mindi Abair's "As Good As It Gets," we said she makes Art Deco/ techno-pop/electronica/adult-alternative-crossover/titanium-trendy/trip-hop/nouveau-club jazz records. It has come to our attention that this taxonomy is mistaken. Abair actually makes adult-electronica/pop- art/nouveau-alternative/trendy-techno/crossover-Deco/titanium-trip club-hopping jazz records. Sorry for any confusion. Also, we thought "As Good As It Gets" was just that. But "Make a Wish" is even better. Abair, producer Matthew Hager and co-writer Ty Stevens create not mere background for her winsome alto sax, but an aural American anime. Bish?jo bebop, anyone?

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments

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Mindi Abair: As Good As It Gets

Gray-bearded geezers prattling about the old days are insufferable bores, especially to young people. But we can't resist. In the old days, for Blue Note album art, co-owner Francis Wolff would unobtrusively snap a close-up black-&-white unposed photo of the artist at work or pensively pondering a playback (e.g., John Coltrane's Blue Train), which graphic designer Reid Miles later cropped and often creatively tinted (did someone mention Blue Train?) for album art that is now considered classic. Nowadays, things are more complicated. This CD boasts, besides photography, separate credits for wardrobe, hair styling, hair color and make-up. We can only imagine what poor baggy-raincoated Lou Donaldson might've achieved given such pampering. Anyhow, besides looking as glamorous as a hotel heiress, Her Hairness Mindi Abair makes terrific Art Deco/techno-pop/electronica/adult-alternative-crossover/titanium-trendy/trip-hop/ nouveau-club jazz records. "As Good As It Gets" is just that.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments

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Kenny G: Songbird

Seldom has a jazz track ignited such firestorms. Songbirding, as it's now known, gained notoriety during the 1989 overthrow of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who, fleeing the U.S. invasion, took sanctuary in the Apostolic Nunciature. Since assaulting the Holy See's embassy would've violated international law, U.S. troops surrounded the compound with loudspeakers, volume cranked to 11, from which they directed an around-the-clock barrage of Kenny G's hit. After enduring 72 hours of this unspeakable torture, Gen. Noriega emerged, hands clasped to his ears, and meekly surrendered. Although songbirding remains a controversial tool in the war against terror, no one doubts its effectiveness.

November 05, 2007 · 0 comments

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Chuck Mangione: Feels So Good

Flügelhorn is German for turkey. The cornet's klutzy cousin, despite sonorous middle and lower registers, has notoriously weak upper reaches. Miles Davis and Shorty Rogers wisely kept to its natural range, but less savvy players insist on attempting higher notes that'd be a cinch on a trumpet but break miserably on the F-horn. Leading the pack of miserable breakers is Chuck Mangione, whose cracked tones have impressed gullible hordes as emotionally freighted—analogous to a human voice rent from overwhelming feeling. Far be it from us to spoil anyone's angst, but Mangione is closer to weak-lipped Herb Alpert than to Edvard Munch.

November 05, 2007 · 0 comments

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John Klemmer: Touch

According to the science of haptics, interpersonal touching varies from culture to culture. Latin countries, Italy and the Middle East exhibit significantly higher rates than Japan, the UK or USA. Small wonder, then, that the touchy-feely 1970s met a mixed reception in traditionally low-touch, high-tech America, whose ambivalence made John Klemmer both victor and victim. Plugging his sax into an electronic echo chamber, backed by phase-shifting electric piano and exotic percussion, Klemmer struck a goldmine of what he calls "primal urges." Yet this archetypal hotline, he now concedes, blinded us to his artistic depth. We mistook his aboriginal masterpieces for suburban make-out music.

November 02, 2007 · 1 comment

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Bebel Gilberto: Mais Feliz

Tanto Tempo sold more than a million copies, catapulting Bebel Gilberto into world music stardom. The familiar bossa beat, pioneered by Bebel's father, João Gilberto, 50 years ago, is very much evident in her work. But the daughter has modernized her inheritance, adding subtle electronic effects that clearly helped her reach a younger audience. Gilberto has a soothing, whispery voice, but lacks the brooding introspection that set her father apart from the crowd. At times her songs risk collapsing into a higher quality ambient music, but perhaps that is the niche she is destined to fill. But if placed in more challenging settings, Gilberto might surprise us with recordings that sell well and excite the jazz world.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments

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Lee Ritenour: Captain Fingers

With its languid pace, string enhancement and sliding guitar melody, “Dolphin Dreams” glides along as gracefully as, well, a dolphin underwater. Ritenour evokes a dreamy feel on the track that gives way to a dramatic break before returning to its initial tranquility. There are tunes in Ritenour’s catalog that are jazzier than this, but if you’re seeking a gentle, pretty piece of music, perhaps to unwind after a stressful day, this is worth checking out.

October 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Dave Grusin & Lee Ritenour: Early A.M. Attitude

Bright and sparkling with a catchy, immediately likable melody, “Early A.M. Attitude” is a contemporary jazz classic that earned. keyboardist Grusin and guitarist Ritenour a Grammy. The two musicians are old friends who have collaborated many times, and this tune reflects their easy accord. This is sure to appeal to fans of contemporary and smooth jazz, although jazz purists may find it a bit poppy for their taste.

October 30, 2007 · 1 comment

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Joe Sample & Lalah Hathaway: Fever

On their collaboration album The Song Lives On, pianist Joe Sample and singer Lalah Hathaway (daughter of soul great Donny Hathaway) take on “Fever,” immortalized by Peggy Lee. Where Lee infused the song with a sultry purr, Sample and Hathaway give it a bit more kick; they pick up the tempo slightly while still retaining the song’s sensuous core. The husky-voiced Hathaway offers a seductive vocal of her own, while Kirk Whalum provides plaintive sax punctuation. A captivating take on an indelible standard.

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments

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Grover Washington, Jr.: Just the Two of Us

You’ve undoubtedly heard this intimate boudoir ballad a trillion times on your local soft-rock station, but the single version edits out most of Washington’s performance. A shame, because during the instrumental break he turns in a muscular extended solo that sends the song in an unexpected direction before returning it to the original melody. Washington is heard again at the end, but overall this isn’t one of his more dominant performances.

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Grover Washington, Jr.: Inner City Blues

Saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.’s instrumental take on Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" is the title track of his debut album. Opening with a siren-accented soulful simmer, Washington and his tight ensemble steadily build the tune into a potent jam, with Washington’s sax wailing urgently over top. Soul, sensitivity, inventiveness and finesse – Washington had it all and it’s amply in evidence here.

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Karl Denson: Elephants

Saxophonist Karl Denson and his ensemble, which includes a stellar brass section, have conjured up some irresistibly funky pachyderms in this extended jam, which closes Denson’s excellent album The Bridge. There’s really not a whole lot to say about this track, except check out the lineup, check out the tune, and let your body move.

October 23, 2007 · 0 comments

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Zachary Breaux: Alice (Down In Parks Louisiana – August 1906 – August 1991)

It’s pretty gutsy to release a live debut album – you establish immediately that you either have it or you don’t, and Zachary Breaux had it in abundance. 1992’s Groovin’ – recorded at the famed London club Ronnie Scott’s – introduced the Texas-born guitarist’s soulful, George Benson-influenced style. “Alice (Down In Parks Louisiana – August 1906-August 1991)" is a bluesy workout spotlighting Breaux’s laid-back deftness, offset by a fiery piano solo. Breaux only released a handful of albums before dying tragically young trying to save a drowning swimmer. One can only imagine the music this gifted artist would have made had he lived.

October 23, 2007 · 0 comments

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