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New and noteworthy

MUSIC | Four new albums reviewed

New and noteworthy
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Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2

Don Braden

Glass-half-empty types will insist that this volume of Don Braden’s jazz tribute to Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire falls short of the first because it doesn’t contain “Getaway.” Glass-half-full types will posit the opposite, citing the exclusive presence on Volume 2 of “Master Blaster.” What both types should agree on is that Braden-and-combo’s familiarity with their heroes’ deep cuts keeps overfamiliarity from setting in—and that Volume 3 can’t come soon enough.

For Mahalia, With Love 

James Brandon Lewis, Red Lily Quintet

This disc could just as well be titled For Ornette, With Love, so clear is the ensemble’s debt to The Shape of Jazz to Come and their ability to repay it. But because James Brandon Lewis’ sound is five-men deep instead of four and because one of those five is the cellist Chris Hoffman, it’s brawnier and denser at its most intense (an eight-minute “Wade in the Water,” a nine-minute “Calvary”) than Coleman’s. Lewis’ sax and Kirk Knuffke’s cornet, meanwhile, wail, moan, and shriek as the Spirit gives them utterance.

The Best of Mister Rogers Volume 2: Back in the Neighborhood 

Mister Rogers

“Milton!” wrote Wordsworth, “thou shouldst be living at this hour: / England hath need of thee.” The same could be said of Fred Rogers and 2023 America. Rogers, his ordained status notwithstanding, observed the separation of church and children’s programming. But on two of these songs he almost doesn’t—“Peace and Quiet” (which could’ve been called “Peace Be With You”) and “The Truth Will Make Me Free.” (That’s “truth” with a lower-case “t,” but one has to start somewhere.) And it’s always a pleasure to hear the Johnny Costa trio ignore the separation of children’s programming and jazz.

Brexit Music

Baptiste Trotignon

Brexit Music,” says Baptiste Trotignon, “is not a political album.” Correct. It’s simply an album in which melodies by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, the Police, Elvis Costello, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Robert Wyatt, and Queen serve the same function for Trotignon (piano), Matt Penman (bass), and Greg Hutchinson (drums) that the Great American Songbook served for Miles Davis. Themes get stated and recapitulated, and, in between, the trio—especially Hutchinson—has lots of fun exercising its chops. The exception: “Fake Plastic Trees,” which Trotignon, tapping his inner melancholy, handles all by himself.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington Bettmann/Getty Images


In June, Legacy Recordings released the first of its so far four-volume Ellington in Order series, a digital-only affair intended to give streamers easy access to all of the Columbia-owned Duke Ellington recordings ever made in the order that he made them. And not just streamers—hard-copy enthusiasts can buy downloads of each lengthy installment (for around $33) and burn CDs of their own.

What makes the volumes lengthy is that they contain every take of every song that Ellington and his orchestra (beginning in 1927 and under various names for contractual reasons) assayed. What makes this indiscriminate approach exciting rather than stultifying is the musicianship. Lively and precise (the latter of which it had to be to fit onto Depression-era vinyl), it never wears out its welcome. Still, if the idea of hearing, for example, three consecutive takes of “Old Man Blues” gives you pause, rest assured that shouting “One more time!” after the first two will take off the edge. —A.O.

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.



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