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  Listen Up! 2/13/02 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Feb. 13

Kenny Burrell, "Jazzmen Detroit," Savoy Records. Right smack in the middle of the hard bop era, in spring 1956, we find this supremely relaxed session with the odd front-line juxtaposition of Burrell's guitar with Pepper Adams smooth and sultry baritone sax. None of these songs burn fast and furious, but simply lay in the sinuously swinging groove provided by drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Paul Chambers. Then you have Burrell and pianist Tommy Flanagan sparring with chords that bounce off each other, and delicious single note solos that slide across the harmonies. This is really a lovely little record.

The Sawdoctors, "Villains?," Shamtown Records. This Irish rock band bubbles just underneath the level it takes to make them really good. They're good, but I'd have to give them a B-, grading them at slightly better than average. Very solid, in-the-pocket rock grooves, earnest vocals with a twinge of Irish folk influence (and lots of accent), melodies that rise and fall nicely. Slightly more interesting tunes, or slightly more dynamic musicianship would push them to the next level. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being better than average, is there? Actually, songs like the seductive "Always Gives Me More" and the sultry "I Know I've Got Your Love" are better than the rest, maybe going up to that solid B grade.

Various Artists, "Talkin' Verve Cool," Verve Records. This compilation, while full of terrific artists, may be almost too cool. I mean cool as in emotionally dry, as in reserved, as in laid-back and chilled out. Or maybe, it's just not loud enough. Artists include Quincy Jones, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, Oliver Nelson, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond, Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and Gil Evans. I really should like this stuff more than I do right now.

John Paul Jones, "The Thunderthief," Discipline Global Mobile. I like the instrumental that opens this record, "Leafy Meadows," with a neat Robert Fri pp guitar solo interacting with Jones' pseudo-Zep backing. I'm also quite impressed with "Shibuya Bop," which freaks out on guitar and organ, turning out some sort of progressive rock nightmare sound that really works. The rest of the record sounds good, but does lack songs and structure. Lots of interesting ideas wandering through Jones' brain, but not much of a sense of what to do with them. And the delusion that his vocals, which sound like a Limey version of the sea captain on the Simpsons, are a good idea to record. But, he used to be in Led Zeppelin, so why worry? People will buy it anyway.

Zero 7, "Simple Things," Mushroom Records. It's more of a background music thing the second time through. Pleasant, meandering little synthscapes, with the male vocalist a little bit soulful, a little bit precious. He could have been in Simply Red or something back in the day. If you're gonna have to have this kind of music, you might as well have this one. (Gosh, I hope the label picks up on that quote to help sell it.)

--Steve Pick



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