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Music reviews - 3.8.06

Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, William Porter

The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ

Gothic Records


An instrument stars in a new LOFT recording, which like many solo organ CDs, exists to showcase a particular set of pipes. On this CD, three guys rev up the Eastman Italian Baroque Organ (recently installed at the MemorialArtGallery) and show us what it can do. Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, and William Porter wisely chose 18th-century music with fluorescent appeal that expresses the orderly sweetness of the Baroque. I especially like the fluty Sonated'intavolatura from 1716 by DomenicoZipoli, which David Higgs infuses with delicate charm. Some of the pieces on this CD curled my toes. Others had me diving for the skip button. Between the light and shadow, I kept thinking how remarkable it was to be able to hear them at all! The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ offers a kind of podcast from the 18th century, when air moving through pipes enchanted.

--- Brenda Tremblay

Elvis Costello

My Flame Burns Blue

Deutsche Grammophon


Please, please put away your preconceived punk-poindexter notions of Elvis Costello. The man is a songwriting genius. And his new My Flame Burns Blues is simply beautiful.

Costello says this album "may explain what I've been doing during the last twelve years when I haven't had a guitar in my hands." My Flame Burns Blue has Costelloreally swinging big band style with a bluesy swagger and jazz proficiency. The sound is so incredible it's hard to believe it's a live recording --- recorded at The North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands with The MetropoleOrkest.

Costello takes his own tunes like "Almost Blue" and "Watching the Detectives" --- along with contributions from Charles Mingus, Burt Bacharach, and Billy Strayhorn --- and paints them with a lustrous orchestral wash. Bossa nova beats and cascading strings give the album a grandiose lounge feel full of red velvet and cocktails. And Costello's voice sounds fantastic, believe it or not. His aim is still true. This is music to fall in love to. This is music to fall in love with.

--- Frank De Blase

Pat Martino

Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery

Blue Note

Tribute albums are everywhere you look in the jazz CD bins. With the acknowledged masters of the mid-20th century almost all gone, contemporary artists can't help but dip into the rich pool of brilliant work they left behind. While most of these tributes are loose salutes, with artists taking up the material but putting their own spin on it, one recent effort breaks the trend. On Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery guitarist Pat Martino stays as close to Montgomery's sound as possible.

Montgomery was a major influence on Martino in his formative years. When, as a boy, Martino was introduced to his idol in a nightclub, Montgomery made a strong impression on him. Now, four decades into his career as a top jazz guitarist, Martino decided to re-explore these roots. The resulting album cooks from start to finish. All of the great Montgomery classics are here: "Four on Six," "Full House," "West Coast Blue" and many more. With John Patitucci on bass, David Kikoski on piano, Scott Allan Robinson on drums, and Danny Sadownick on percussion, the album rides along on a continuously infectious groove. And while the arrangements adhere closely to the originals, Martino can't help but inject his own wonderful style into numerous solo excursions.

--- Ron Netsky

Devo 2.0

Devo 2.0

Disney Sound

So here's the good news: Devo's Gerald V. Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh have written two new songs, their first collaboration in 15 years. The bad news?It's part of a project called Devo 2.0, a group of five kids cherrypicked to remake the innovative combo's best-known tunes. Ranging in age from 10 to 13, Devo 2.0 members play their own instruments and, in a most tuneless and devolutionary fashion, clone classics like "Whip It," "Uncontrollable Urge," and "Girl"... um, "Boy U Want" (now sung by a 12-year-old girl and re-titled to presumably avoid confusing an entire generation). But the simplistic danceability of Devo songs is what might make them so appealing to children, which is why you could just throw on your old Freedom of Choice record and let the kids wear themselves out. It's a brilliant maneuver, however, marketing to aging hipsters who wouldn't be caught dead buying Kidz Bop for their own aspiring consumers. Are we not greedy?

---Dayna Papaleo


Have You Heard

Righteous Babe

New to the Righteous Babe stable, guitarist-singer-songwriter ToshiReagon blends folk conventions with a more contemporary take on the blues and several other styles for a seamless blend. Energy-wise, she can also really rock out --- smooth songs wrap around you with their slow-burning intensity, but when Reagon pushes them over the edge, you go tumbling over still feeling like you're in good hands with her velvety voice at the wheel. Reagon's singing simmers with passion and desire, but it's the touches of gospel that weave in and out of the arrangements --- vocal harmonies and that certain unearthly possession --- that electrify Have You Heard with conviction that crackles deep within the grooves. Like the best artists who explore devotion and attraction simultaneously, Reagon blends the boundaries between them until you can't tell which is which.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Ashley MacIsaac




While his cousin and fellow fiddle player Natalie MacMaster has steered a more traditional course in her work, Ashley MacIsaac has done some serious genre-crossing with the time-honored violin techniques of his native CapeBreton. (CapeBreton is a Canadian island east of Nova Scotia with its own strain of Scottish-descended Celtic music that has endured since colonial times; both MacIsaac and MacMaster are related to famed fiddler Buddy MacMaster). But, even for a guy who once lifted his kilt on Conan, came out of the closet in the public eye, and has refused to stick to any one style, you could picture his manager begging him to reconsider Pride, where he plays zero violin. As if to warn any of his traditional fans, the inlay booklet shows MacIsaac giving a double-barreled middle-finger salute to the camera and exposing all manner of undies and emaciated skin. And the music?Catchy, guitar-driven ditties with bluntly clever lyrics and enough energy and attitude to become the next summer soundtrack to keg parties across North America. Hell, let's hope so --- MacIsaac could very well redefine how we use the words "bitch," "closet," and "gay."

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni