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  Listen Up! 3/4/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Mar. 4

McCoy Tyner Trio With Symphony, "What the World Needs Now: The Music of Burt Bacharach," Impulse! Records. This came out five years ago, and I never heard it until now. Very cool stuff. Tyner has always employed such a lush style of piano playing, and it's interesting to hear him set out in front of a full symphony orchestra. Bacharach's music isn't played all that often in a jazz context, mostly because his melodies, while harmonically sophisticated, aren't all that complicated. It's fascinating to hear McCoy Tyner deliver simple single note melody lines in the heads of all these songs. Once he digs into the improvisations, he pulls all his pianistic tricks together, and the results are sinuous, supple, and powerful.

Misfits, "Static Age," Caroline Records. I never listened much to the Misfits. This album is made up of the demos they recorded in early 1978, before they got into the goth schtick that made them so popular. They were very much in the spirit of the Ramones at this point, and could easily have played CBGB's with the Dead Boys et al. Glenn Danzig's bellow was much stronger than the average punk singer at the time, which makes these songs stand out a little from the pack of early punk imitators. They also had slightly more inventive melodies than most.

Duke Ellington, "Money Jungle," Blue Note Records. One of, perhaps THE greatest piano trio albums ever. Ellington in conjunction with Charles Mingus on bass and Max Roach on drums. These guys just burn, exploring all sorts of wild interactions with each other rhythmically, harmonically, melodically. The sound is sparse, but every note, every drum sound is absolutely perfectly placed. The title track, when Mingus apes Ellington's lines, then keeps going with them, spurring Ellington on to wilder, thicker chords, all while Roach snaps the snare for emphasis on the most unexpected beats, may be one of the finest examples of jazz in history.

Elvis Costello, "When I Was Cruel," Island Records. First time through this new record, not due out until sometime in April, and I can tell you this. Anybody who thinks Costello lost his touch at any point in his career is gonna have to clearly and explicitly explain to me what there is wrong with this album. Because I can't find anything wrong with it. It's brilliant, and not at all like any previous records from the man, though it is obviously the same guy in charge here. It's being marketed as Costello's return to rock, but, as usual, that's only a small part of the story here. The sound is way more diverse than you may be expecting, especially if you just picked up the reissues of "This Year's Model," "Blood and Chocolate," and "Brutal Youth," all of which are far more immediately raunchy than this one.

Uncle Tupelo, "89/93: An Anthology," Columbia Legacy. First, it's important to note that these recordings never sounded this good before. Theyv'e gone in and remixed and remastered the originals, finally making those guitars ring the way they did in the studio, that bass resound with clarity and punch, and those drums sound light and bouncy the way they were meant to do. I never thought Uncle Tupelo was as great as a lot of people thought they were - frankly, I much prefer the work Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy have done in the years since they split up - but the best of this material holds up pretty well. Somebody said this sounded like the Minutemen crossed with country music, and if you throw in a lot of Neil Young and Black Flag influences, you'll get right to the heart of it.

--Steve Pick



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