This Month's Picks

Last Dance [Import] (CD)

Charlie Haden, Keith Jarrett

Four years after Jasmine, their last collaboration as a duo, these two monsters of American jazz have returned with an album of what hopefully won't be the literal Last Dance of its title. As usual, and especially in such close and friendly quarters, both players are fine listeners and relational performers, one complementing the other with rhythm to their lyricism and vice versa. Because the record is just piano and upright bass, the mood is relatively quiet, contemplative, and wistful. Quietly emotional standards from the classic American songbook are augmented with Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk, making this album similar to Jasmine but slightly more adventurous and, at times, even upbeat. This is an album by two absolute master performers who, at 69 and 76, show no signs of letting up their commitment to jazz as the uniquely American artform it is and that they clearly both still believe it can and will be.

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Genre: Jazz

Favorite Waitress (CD)

The Felice Brothers

End-of-the-night alt-country/folk-rock from upstate NY, produced by real life brothers, and sung with a winkingly erudite Dylanism that recalls the southern-tinged power-pop tendencies of the early No Depression crowd. Truly caught somewhere between rock and folk, the album is chock full of fiddles and accordions but also covered in a layer of filth and occasionally fuzz. Drunk, romantic, pining, cynical but in a uniquely countrified warm way, this, their tenth album, should appeal to fans of driving in trucks and wearing jean jackets.

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Genre: Rock

Just Be Free (CD)

Big Freedia

The massively entertaining and likable entertainer known as Big Freedia is known as the queen of sissy bounce, placing her queerness front and center alongside relentless, pulse-pounding beats and call-and-response chants. Until now, though, it was a little hard to get through an entire Big Freedia album without feeling exhausted. Just Be Free is Big Freedia’s moment to step into the mainstream, and she does so successfully without dumbing down her sound. “Dangerous’” bullet-fire beats and Big Freedia’s command to wiggle make it impossible not to oblige. “N O Bounce” calls out her hometown of New Orleans (home of sissy bounce) with some jazzy horns and piano alongside a crushing beat and cut up vocals looped hypnotically. The uninitiated still might feel overwhelmed by Just Be Free’s non-stop onslaught—listening is a little like being in the most intense workout session of your life. But we’d rather hear her still uninhibited rather than soften the songs with pointless ballads or something. When Big Freedia shouts “RELEASE YOUR WIGGLE, RELEASE YOUR ANGER, RELEASE YOUR MIND, RELEASE YOUR JOB” on “Explode,” it’s best to give in.

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Genre: Hip Hop

N.O.W. Is The Time (CD)

Nightmares On Wax

Chances are, whether you know it or not, George Evelyn aka Nightmares on Wax has made some sort of impact on your life as a music listener. The pioneering DJ, producer, and instrumentalist has spent at least the last 25 years twiddling knobs on songs that could fill up an entire record store, bridging genres in service of an ultimate groove, a preposterously tasteful aesthetic made of equal parts deep sampling, live hip-hop, and even lush live band soul and R&B with a full string section. N.O.W. Is The Time is his longtime label's tribute to his legacy, a massive Best Of collection encompassing his forays into acid-house, twisted down-tempo dubbiness, pure hip hop, essential trip hop, laid back soul, and electronic experimentalism. Packed with unreleased material, inarguable classics, and brand new remixes, the set also comes with a book filled with interviews and photos, covering the history of Evelyn's activity as Nightmares On Wax. Essential!

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Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics (CD)

The Delfonics

For the first Delfonics album in many years, the legendary soul band’s singer, William Hart, teams with producer Adrian Younge (Ghostface Killah, Venice Dawn), who writes dreamy compositions with era-appropriate production for the group, now in its 80s. Just as the group once performed iconic songs like “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” becoming sampled by the likes of The Fugees and Missy Elliott and being used notably in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Younge presents Hart with songs which could have been released in the ’70s, during the group’s prime. Amazingly, Hart’s unique, high-register drawl is intact. He warbles emotively through the darkly beautiful “Stop and Look (And You Have Found Love),” which I’ll stop short of calling a new classic for the band (but if it isn’t, it’s damn close). Younge and his band give the Hart a nasty, surf-soul ballad to croon over in “Lost Without You,” which starts like a 007 theme song before panning out into psychedelic soul, with stirring drum breaks, horns and subtle sitar. It’s touches like these that keep Adrian Young Presents the Delfonics from being merely a nostalgic trip or way for a producer to work with one of his heroes; Younge truly understands Hart’s voice, what works and what doesn’t, and he successfully adds new shades to the classic Delfonics sound while honoring their classic era. Hart croons like a man a quarter of his age in the touching “Silently”; he drops a register to sing out of falsetto on “To Be Your One,” the result equally alluring; and when he teams with a female vocalist on “Just Love,” they emerge with a gorgeous funk-soul ballad you could hear adding choice ambiance to Jackie Brown 2. To say it’s seductive listening would be an understatement.

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Genre: Soul

The Jazz Age (CD)

Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry is always up there at the country house cooking up some new way of delivering you the lush life, and this time he literally blows the roof off! Here are thirteen songs from the breadth of his career, from Roxy Music to recent solo albums, arranged and interpreted by a hard-swingin' 1920s style jazz orchestra, and presented in gloriously crackly mono. At first hearing tunes like "Do the Strand" come at you as a vigorous Dixieland stomp practically makes you laugh out loud -- then you realize the guy is serious. From "Love Is the Drug" to "Avalon," these tunes get sent back in the way-back machine, only to return with plenty of trombone charts, clarinet solos, muted trumpets and even coconut percussion fills. Members of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra execute this vintage fantasia, with some arranging help from UK TV composer Colin Good. Each reinterpretation is imaginatively and slyly suited to the original, whether bringing out a latent samba shuffle or hinting at the original darkness of tone behind a zany rhythm. Of course, Bryan Ferry has always been besotted with the Jazz Age, going back to his first solo album, These Foolish Things, in which he crooned classic 1930s ballads in his proto-new wave style. Even then he had a true knack for classic sounds (a knack not shared by just anybody, as one notices whenever Rod Stewart barfs up "It Had to be You"). So jump on this magic carpet with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra and soar back in time to the Roaring Twenties!

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Genre: Rock

Lonerism (LP)

Tame Impala

If Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel) had been born 10 years later and became obsessed with tape loops, this is sort of what it would sound like. Stellar effort, even better than their first LP. Get on it, people.  

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Genre: Rock