al­bum re­views

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CHRISTINE JENSEN

JAZZ ORCHES­TRA Tree­lines

( Justin Time) A sig­nif­i­cant big-band al­bum with few no­tices in the U.S. (no men­tion, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, at all­mu­sic.com or al­labout­jazz.com), Tree­lines is Cana­dian sax­o­phon­ist/com­poser Christine Jensen’s fourth al­bum as a leader. Ten years in the mak­ing, it fea­tures her sis­ter, In­grid Jensen, on trum­pet and fluegel­horn, and an 18-piece orches­tra. “ Dancing Sun­light” is full of ex­cur­sions and cli­maxes in a cav­al­cade of joy­ful horns — in­clud­ing In­grid and two tenor play­ers, Joel Miller and Chet Doxas — plus in­ci­sive play­ing by bassist Fraser Hollins and drum­mer Martin Au­guste. Most of the songs here fit in with the band­leader’s theme: a tribute to the trees of her na­tive Bri­tish Columbia. “Ar­bu­tus” is a brightly con­ceived ode to the madrone tree, with Donny Kennedy beau­ti­ful on alto sax. “Red Cedar” is based on Christine’s mem­o­ries of climb­ing big cedar trees as a child. She could never reach the top, and that frus­tra­tion is re­flected in the spirit of Erik Hove’s alto solo at the end. Miller’s “Dropoff” is about wad­ing in the ocean and com­ing to a point where the sea floor dis­ap­pears and you ex­pe­ri­ence what he calls “tak­ing the leap of buoy­ancy.” The disc’s de­par­ture, “Dark and Stormy Blues,” is both an­gu­lar and whim­si­cal, in­clud­ing a wah-wah mute solo by trom­bon­ist Jean-Ni­co­las Trot­tier. On “Seafever,” Christine plays gor­geous so­prano on a mem­o­rable melody, a ded­i­ca­tion to her mother. This is fine group jazz. — Paul Wei­de­man

THE DON­KEYS

Born With Stripes (Dead

Oceans) Some al­bums walk. Some r un. Born With Stripes is an al­bum that saun­ters, like it’s bring­ing you a cool pitcher of lemon­ade on a hot, hu­mid af­ter­noon. The San Diego group’s 2008 al­bum

Liv­ing on the Other Side lan­guished on my shelf un­til I tossed it in the car stereo one hot morn­ing, and the sun­shine day­dreams of the Grate­ful Dead vibe sud­denly made sense. Stripes is more ton­ally sim­i­lar from start to fin­ish than that more eclec­tic al­bum. For ex­am­ple, the se­duc­tive opener, “Don’t Know Who We Are,” melts into the coun­tri­fied “I Like the Way That You Walk,” with the shuf­fling beat only ac­cel­er­at­ing by a step. The band later slips into pro­longed psychedelia (in a song called “Kalei­do­scope,” nat­u­rally), and yes, a si­tar will make a cameo be­fore the record is through. For the most part, the shifts are sub­tle, and it’s all about that sweet tempo, main­tained by a ro­bust rhythm sec­tion, shak­ers, twangy gui­tars, and vo­cals that aren’t in any hurry to get any­where. The lyrics are ges­tures of the “I’m a boy and you’re a girl” va­ri­ety, but they’re about con­vey­ing mood rather than pro­vok­ing thought. This al­bum is for driv­ing with the win­dows down, with sun­shine on your fore­arm and some­one you love in the seat be­side you. — Robert B. Ker

‘Born With Stripes’ is an al­bum that saun­ters, like it’s bring­ing you a cool pitcher of lemon­ade on a hot, hu­mid af­ter­noon.

AL­BÉNIZ Span­ish Mu­sic for Clas­si­cal Gui­tar (Te­larc) The gui­tarist David Rus­sell in­cluded sev­eral pieces by Isaac Al­béniz on his Santa Fe recital on April 8. Four days later, his all-Al­béniz CD hit the streets, in­clud­ing the items he played here as well as quite a few oth­ers. All 15 of the pieces on the CD were orig­i­nally com­posed for the piano, a fact that goes oddly un­men­tioned in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing 12-page book­let. His recital pro­gram, how­ever, de­clared that the Al­béniz ar­range­ments are his own, and they are mas­terly in­deed. These short works have al­ways sounded per­fectly suited to the piano, never more than when played by Ali­cia de Lar­rocha (whose record­ings re­main widely avail­able). But lis­ten­ing to them on gui­tar, one would not imag­ine that these weren’t their orig­i­nal set­tings, even though Rus­sell’s tran­scrip­tion in­volves revoic­ing the mu­sic to fit within a more re­stricted com­pass. Te­larc brings ex­cel­lent en­gi­neer­ing to bear in cap­tur­ing Rus­sell’s volup­tuous tone. His play­ing, al­ways metic­u­lously clean and grace­fully nu­anced, al­lows for con­sid­er­able rhyth­mic free­dom while never los­ing sight of a phrase’s tra­jec­tory. Al­béniz com­posed sev­eral of the se­lec­tions to de­pict spe­cific Span­ish places, al­low­ing lis­ten­ers to en­joy a trav­el­ogue on Granada, Cádiz, Cataluña, and, in the most ex­tra­or­di­nary piece on the disc, Cór­doba, which is ac­corded a six-minute tone poem. Also here is a smil­ing ren­di­tion of the com­poser’s fa­mous Tango, a peren­nial encore for good rea­son.

— James M. Keller

I WAS TO­TALLY DE­STROY­ING IT Pre­ludes (Greyday

Records) When I heard I Was To­tally De­stroy­ing It’s John Booker snarl, “I’ve got a wreck­ing ball, but it won’t save the world. I may hate my­self but I hate you all so much more,” on Pre­ludes’ open­ing track (“Wreck­ing Ball”), I wor­ried that I had hitched a ride along the in­die-rock pa­rade route through AngstyGuy, U.S.A. I’m re­lieved to re­port that this North Carolina en­sem­ble knows how to steer off that tired course and de­liver a solid plat­ter of melodic pop rock that will have you dig­ging in your vinyl bins to give 20th­cen­tury al­bums by The Cure, Posies, Talk Talk, and The Cran­ber­ries a proper dust­ing off. Booker and co-lead vo­cal­ist, Rachel Hirsh, have ver­sa­tile pipes that usu­ally work best in tan­dem, and thank­fully, Pre­ludes is heavy on vo­cal har­monies and duets. “Con­trol” and “The Key & the Rose” are in­stant pop-rock an­thems, com­plete with jan­gly in­ter­ludes and cho­ral shouts à la Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ’ n’ Roll.” The al­bum trots along at an eas­ily di­gestible pace, but when track nine, “Fight/Flight,” un­folds, the bril­liance and power of IWTDI’s song­writ­ing and ar­rang­ing is laid bare. On it, Hirsh’s voice is rem­i­nis­cent of Siouxsie Sioux’s in the 1980 song “Happy House,” glid­ing be­tween ban­shee wail and whis­pery ca­ress to stun­ning ef­fect. Culled from a col­lec­tion of songs Booker had on the back burner,

Pre­ludes is good news for fans of orig­i­nal, irony-free power pop. Great news for IWTDI fans: the group has a sec­ond full-length stu­dio al­bum slated for re­lease later this year. — Rob DeWalt

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