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  Listen Up! 8/13/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Aug. 13

Rosemary Clooney, “Songs From the Girl Singer,” Concord Records. This two-disc set compiles a bunch of old songs from Rosemary Clooney, mostly from the 50s, when she did more pop stuff than jazz. But, Clooney was always a jazz-inflected singer (as so many of her contemporaries were; it was the lingua franca of the day). So, there are some inanities – there’s a song called “Sisters” that’s about as stupid as anything I’ve ever heard – but there are some stunning performances, too – there’s a song called “Blue Rose” that Clooney just owns with a wordless vocal that swings like a sax section.

Wayne Kramer, “Adult World,” Muscle Tone Records. Kramer really can’t sing, and I’d love to hear these songs done by somebody who can carry the tunes. Because the songs rock, and Kramer’s guitar-playing seems to have turned yet another corner in his constant development. As he says, he has a great big amp, and it speaks the truth. Don’t laugh, because the melodies of a lot of these songs strike me as Springsteenish, which is a nice contrast to the huge thick slimey-toned riffs he’s delivering on guitar. I use the word “slimey” in reference to his clever song, “The Slime That Ate Cleveland,” which manages to name-check all the key musicians and sports teams of that town. Song for song, this is easily the strongest collection of material Kramer has come up with since he left the MC5 30 years ago.

Isley Brothers, “Funky Family,” Epic Legacy Records. This compilation of lesser known Isley funk classics is full of all the things that made the hits great. There’s Ronald’s salacious voice, Ernie’s liquefying guitar, the eternal throb of the bass, the punch of the drums, and the catchy, hooky songs.

Roy Haynes with Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers, “We Three,” Prestige/New Jazz/OJC. Here we have a delightful little piano trio album recorded exactly five days before I came into the world back in November, 1958. Haynes is the drummer and leader, but Newborn is the piano player and dominant musical force. He has such a powerful right hand, yet a supple left. The three players are attuned to each other at all times. This is a gorgeously subtle piece of work.

--Steve Pick



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