Archive for critic’s picks

critic’s pick: steve earle and the dukes, ‘so you wanna be an outlaw’

In a modest paraphrasing of the title tune from his newest album, Steve Earle confesses a casual truth one expects his own career taught him long ago. “If you wannabe an outlaw,” he sings with a drawl that seems to drag on to an adjacent county, “you can never go home.”

Oddly enough, home is exactly where Earle winds up on “So You Wannabe an Outlaw.” In a career that has seen the veteran songsmith explore politically fueled protest songs, hip-hop flavored folk, blues, bluegrass, duet music with Shawn Colvin and more, Earle has come home to the hardest country sound he has committed to a record since the ‘80s. Fittingly, it also puts him back on a major label (Warner Bros.) for the first time in two decades and re-teams him with producer Richard Bennett, the guitarist and Nashville studio pro that helped oversee (and perform on) Earle’s breakthrough 1986 album “Guitar Town.”

“So You Wannabe an Outlaw” actually reaches back further to the famed Outlaw country movement that predated “Guitar Town.” Specifically, it celebrates the prime hero of that era, Waylon Jennings, who, like Earle, hailed from Texas but never lost sight of his Lone Star roots as his commercial notoriety in Nashville grew. How fitting that Jennings’ running buddy and fellow Outlaw legend Willie Nelson turns up for some rough hewn harmonizing with Earle on the new album’s title cut.

Lyrically, “So You Wannabe an Outlaw” is as restlessly poetic and plain speaking as any other Earle record. “News from Colorado” and “If Mama Coulda Seen Me,” however, turn the tables on traditional family yarns. The former plays out like a Springsteen song with family becoming the source of unyielding misfortune. It is spelled out and repeated in the song’s chorus like a sullen mantra (“The news from Colorado’s never good”). The latter, though, is all Merle Haggard as it imagines a dead mother’s grief at her son’s incarceration (“If mama coulda seen me in these chains, she’s be fit to be tied”).

But it’s musically that Earle’s inner Outlaw really emerges with help from a Dukes lineup that includes mainstays The Mastersons (Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore) and new hands (pedal steel guitarist Ricky Ray Jackson). Together, they galvanize a frightening portrait of Earle’s early ‘90s recklessness (“Fixin’ to Die”) and a boozy honky tonk romp with post-Outlaw star Miranda Lambert (“This is How It Ends”).

Crowning it all, though, is “The Girl on the Mountain,” a yarn of devastating heartbreak set against a sparse and unstelled musical backdrop – proof that the rambling restlessness of the tradition revisited here never knows when to be at ease. That’s the lesson Earle leaves for us – providing you want to be an Outlaw, that is.

critic’s pick: jason isbell and the 400 unit, ‘the nashville sound’

In titling his newest album “The Nashville Sound,” Jason Isbell has presented us with a puzzler. The record, the first co-billed to his long running 400 Unit band in five years, has about as much in common with Nashville musical practices as a Godzilla movie. But over the last decade, Isbell has stationed himself as one of the most concise, literate and honestly emotive Southern songwriters of his generation. Does the fact he works out of a corporate metropolis known for its assembly line construction of shopworn sentiment suggest a new age for the Nashville artist is at hand? That’s the head scratcher.

We’ll leave such expectations to the future, though. For now, let it be known “The Nashville Sound” is not a country record, although its songs certainly frame a level of country sentiment most 9-to-5 Nashville songwriters are light years removed from. Nor is the record any kind of formulaic throwback to yesteryear when the likes of Billy Sherrill, Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins spearheaded regal Music City sounds all their own.

No, “The Nashville Sound,” is more of the same candid, articulate songwriting that began to define Isbell’s songwriting while he was still playing with the upstart Southern band Drive-By Truckers.

News releases and even interviews for the record infer a return to a louder, more elemental sound that had been lightened somewhat so Isbell’s two recent solo albums – 2013’s “Southwestern” and 2015’s “Something More Than Free” – could expand into more Americana friendly waters. That’s not exactly the case here, though “The Nashville Sound” has its high volume moments, like when wheezing buzzsaw guitars introduce and expound on the downward generational spiral within “Cumberland Cap,” which sounds likes less like Drive-By Truckers and more “Document”-era R.E.M. There is also the electric roll of “Anxiety,” where power chords bash against a restless heart (and brain) before subsiding like an electric sea chantey.

Much of “The Nashville Sound,” however, tucks its discontent and uncertainty inside comparatively relaxed melodic homesteads that would have sounded right at home on “Southeastern” or “Something More Than Free.”

The opening “Last of My Kind” takes it cue from John Prine, a master as masking inner turmoil in sunny, folk friendly atmospherics. Also like Prine, Isbell’s wordplay is deceptively simple with an accessibility as conversational and it is confessional. “Can’t see the stars for the neon lights,” he sings, channeling the mood of a smalltown loner lost in the cold, dismissive expanse of metropolitan life.

Similarly, “If We Were Vampires” and “Molotov,” despite their garish titles, reflect cautionary tales of great vulnerability expressed through a hushed acoustic arrangement (the former) and a roots-savvy sway that sounds like it was borrowed from Tom Petty or Los Lobos.

An epic summer listen, “The Nashville Sound” is an immensely appealing new chapter in Isbell’s Americana reign. But is it truly a forecast of things to come in Music City? We can only hope.

critic’s pick: roger waters, ‘is this the life we really want?’

“We cannot turn back the clock, cannot go back in time,” sings Rogers Waters near the midway point of “Is This the Life We Really Want?” True to form, the Pink Floyd co-pilot follows that somber reflection with a defiant jab we can’t reprint here. It’s hardly provocative. In fact, given the vehemence Waters has been dispelling from his songs for the last four decades, it’s all but expected. Even that opening line is, in essence, old news, as “Is This the Life We Really Want?” falls so eerily in line with his last proper rock recording, “Amused to Death,” that the most shocking attribute to the music is that the two recordings were released nearly 25 years apart.

At 73, Waters remains unfazed in his outrage. He blasts our current president in “Picture That” (again with lyrics we would love to quote here, but can’t) against a dark, jangly groove that sounds like it fell right off his Floyd-ian opus “The Wall.” Later, “Smell the Roses” keeps the groove elemental and fearsome as it underscores a saga of warfare with a spitfire of sound effects montages and spoken word chatter that brings to mind the lost 1977 Floyd epic “Animals.”

So why does the aural strife Waters summons throughout “Is This the Life We Really Want?” make for a recommended listen? Part of it is the Pink Floyd appeal, for sure. Waters has often flirted with the narcissistic, fashioning solo music that is dramatically bleaker than the post-Floyd work of former bandmate David Gilmour. While some might find such despondency repetitive and even boorish, Waters gives plenty of reasons on “Is This the Life We Really Want?” for us to buy into the bleakness, especially when the music settles.

For all its inner turmoil, Waters’ message on the new album is rooted in anti-war and global human rights sentiments. On its finest track, “The Last Refugee,” he outlines a tale of separation that isn’t violent or revolutionary, just human and sad. That it dances about lightly with a warmer, ballet-like melody (echoed later in the album during “The Most Beautiful Girl”) makes the tune even more absorbing.

Waters likes to work with en vogue producers, as well, from ‘70s arena rock heavy Bob Ezrin (for “The Wall”) to pop journeyman Patrick Leonard (for “Amused to Death”). On “Is This the Life We Really Want,” he enlists longtime Radiohead sidekick Nigel Godrich. That might provide Waters some cred with new generation fans but it matters not a smidge to the music. Waters rattles on here the same way he always has, with a clenched fist attitude, an unrelenting world weariness and a sonic splendor that proves the mighty Pink Floyd grandeur is alive, well and highly ticked off.

critic’s pick: the beatles, ‘sgt. pepper’s lonely hearts club band’ (anniversary edition)

“I think there’ll be another day singing it,” remarks Paul McCartney to John Lennon at the end of a very different take to the title tune of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that sits at the heart of a new two-disc edition marking the classic Beatles record’s 50th anniversary. How very fortuitous of the future Sir Paul. A half century on, “Sgt. Pepper” has been rightly viewed as a watershed album in terms of production, arrangement and, of course, pop composition. But it doesn’t hurt having an accompanying fly-on-the-wall scrapbook disc, which accompanies Giles Martin’s new remastering of the original album, to help us view how one of the most heralded recordings of the psychedelic era came to be.

We got a very brief hint of the inner workings to “Sgt. Pepper” on the Beatles’ “Anthology” series in 1995. Needless to day, this new edition is far more detailed and enlightening. Hearing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” emerge from a rattle of studio chatter, folkish strumming and even a sneeze? Lennon shouting bits of advice and nonsense before McCartney takes over a loose but absorbing “Lovely Rita”? Marching harpsichord lines searching for a melody that Ringo Starr cements with the groove of “Fixing a Hole” before McCartney offers subtle approval (“And that’s right”)?

Admittedly, the second disc to the new “Sgt. Pepper” is a bit of a nerdish paradise. But think of it more like a childhood investigation akin to the dismantling of a clock to find out literally what makes it tick? “Sgt. Pepper” has been such a familiar part of pop history for so long that discovering some new element to its construction and appeal seems remote. This new edition doesn’t altogether do that, but it does succeed in the way, say, a museum exhibition might – by gathering all the elements of a work we know by heart with sketches and blueprints of how that masterpiece came to be. For the curious, this two disc edition offers appealing insight. The morbidly obsessive, though, will likely lap up a different, six-disc version that further examines “Sgt. Pepper” with additional outtakes and a variety of studio mixes. The two-disc version was reviewed here.

My favorite moment on this new edition doesn’t deal with any of that, though. It’s a deconstructed version of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” that isolates the tune’s Eastern instrumentation. Aside from the audible studio intro stating “take one,” a stirring blend of sitar and tabla wash over you, creating a moment unlike any other on the album. This is where you again realize, a half-century on, just how worldly “Sgt. Pepper” and the Beatles truly were.

critic’s pick: los straitjackets, ‘what’s so funny about peace, love and los straitjackets’

Transforming the songs of a master pop composer into an arsenal of instrumentals might seem like career suicide, right? After all, Nick Lowe has been, for decades, one of rock music’s most cunning and articulate lyricists. So who in their right performance minds would discard his words when fashioning a Lowe tribute record? Why, Los Straitjackets, the masked men of instrumental rock ‘n’ roll, of course.

What is so arresting in listening to “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets” is how the record celebrates all the other brilliant distinctions of Lowe’s songs – specifically, their wonderful melodic design and efficient sense of songcraft.

There is kinship to consider, too. Lowe and Los Straitjackets are currently label mates on the indie Yep Roc Records and have undertaken collaborative holiday tours over the past three years. But the bond goes far deeper on “What’s So Funny.” Los Straitjackets’ last few albums have tempered their familiar twang, surf and retro-related sound into broader musical platforms. Within the stylistic depth of Lowe’s melodies, they have been provided prime rocket fuel to carry on with that journey.

Then again, Lowe’s recent music has mellowed considerably since his power pop beginnings in the 1970s. As such, some of the most attractive moments of “What’s So Funny” come from the songsmith’s newer albums. On “Checkout Time” (from Lowe’s 2011 gem “The Old Magic”), Los Straitjackets summon a percolating blend of bossa nova percussion, guitar twang and prime pop wistfulness.

Similarly, “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” (from the way-underrated 2001 Lowe album “The Convincer”) breezes along with guitar harmony from Eddie Angel, Danny Amis and Greg Townson to provide an easy but pronounced glow to the tune’s already lovely lyrical charm. Then on “You Inspire Me,” the pace slows to a gentle nocturnal crawl that sounds like it was fashioned in the early ‘60s even though Lowe penned the tune in 1998.

The album has a ball with vintage Lowe music, too. His 1984 nugget “Half a Boy and Half a Man” retains the song’s inherent celebratory feel while the rootsy joyride abandon of the album closing “Heart of the City” shifts Los Straitjackets into prime rockish overdrive.

Place it all these treats together and you have a prime platter to ignite the summer with.

critic’s pick: chick corea, ‘the musician’

Now this is what you call a birthday celebration.

On a new triple CD/single Blu-Ray disc concert album “The Musician,” jazz colossus Chick Corea whittles down recordings from a nearly two month residency last fall at the Blue Note in New York. Planned in conjunction with his 75th birthday, the tenure placed the veteran keyboardist and composer in 15 different group configurations –  piano duos, jazz trios, fusion ensembles, flamenco groups and more. Most featured celebrated jazz names from multiple generations, although the broadly playful spirit of Corea’s musicianship – predominantly on piano – clearly fuels the birthday bash.

“The Musician” presents 10 of those settings and the results are continually fascinating. For those whose familiarity with Corea is limited to his fusion adventures, “The Musician” regularly offers colorful, though often tempered interplay. A realigned, acoustic version of the ‘70s Return to Forever quartet (with Frank Gambale in for Al DiMeola) darts through “Captain Marvel” and “Light as a Feather” with boppish, streamlined glee while a retooled Five Peace Band turns up the electricity for two very different exchanges with guitar giant John McLaughlin, the volcanic “Spirit Rides” and the comparatively modest but gorgeously textured “Special Beings.” The 80s era Elektric Band reunites for “Ritual” and “Silver Temple” to ignite Corea’s mightest array of plugged-in sounds, especially on Rhodes-style electric piano, although the warp speed percussion blitz of drummer Dave Weckl tends to overpower both tunes.

Those preferring Corea strictly on piano can indulge in generous duets with Marcus Roberts (on a riotously fragmented “Caravan”) and Herbie Hancock (on an ominous, slow-brewing “Cantaloupe Island” that sounds like it has spent the last few years soaking in the New Orleans sun with a freshly adopted Professor Longhair accent). The non-piano duo settings team Corea with vocalist Bobby McFerrin, on the former’s signature tune “Spain,” much of which is devoted to a wordless improvisational meditation, and vibraphonist Gary Burton, on “Overture” and “Your Eyes Speak to Me.” The latter tunes quietly stray into chamber territory with help from the Harlem String Quartet.

Traditionalists should welcome a lovely trio reading of “I Hear a Rhapsody” with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Brian Blade while an all-star quintet spotlighting trumpeter Wallace Roney salutes Corea mentor (and one time employer) Miles Davis on an insightful 22 minute version of  “If I Were a Bell.”

The highlight, though, comes from a pair of songs cut with the least known support team of the lot, the aptly named Flamenco Heart. The group provides a framework of guitar, percussion and reeds that allows the Spanish inspiration so clearly at the heart of Corea’s music to lightly but profoundly soar. The collaboration is the crowning touch in this expansive, celebratory overview of a restless jazz titan whose music truly knows no bounds.

chris stapleton’s round 2 ignites on ‘vol. 1’

chris stapleton.

At the half-way point of his sublime sophomore album “From a Room: Volume 1,” Chris Stapleton attempts to rattle the cage of a relationship – in all likelihood, a marriage – long steeped in domestic purgatory. During a sobering tune called “Either Way,” both parties keep up appearances to the outside world but live a wholly separated existence, talking only “when the monthly bills are due.” Then, as the song reaches its chorus, the stark denouement is reached. “You can go, you can stay,” Stapleton sings in that now familiar, soul-inscribed country voice. “I won’t love you either way.”

Now, here’s the kicker. Even if another Nashville songwriter could have designed a song of similarly unsentimental torment, they would have weighed it down with strings and other obvious anthemic devices to make sure it was a weeper of cinematic proportions. What Stapleton and producer Dave Cobb do is let the song essentially sing itself. All you hear is Stapleton’s singing, which packs the potency of a cyclone, and a lone acoustic guitar. In short, the song is left to bleed before your ears with raw, uncompromising urgency.

“Either Way” also serves as a crossroads for “From a Room: Volume 1.” It’s a line of demarcation separating music of unvarnished country tradition from sounds that soar into heavier soul and R&B terrain, territory the Lexington-born, Paintsville-raised artist is as versed in as the Nashville lexicon that earned him a glowing reputation as a songwriter and, more recently, performer.

The country material is pretty comprehensive in tone and thematic intent. The opening “Broken Halos” turns country outlaw references inside out to become a coarse affirmation that preaches patience. “Don’t go looking for the reasons, don’t go asking Jesus why,” Stapleton sings in a mood as contemplative as it is pleading. “When I’m meant to know the answers, they’ll belong to the by and by.”

A cover of the 1982 Willie Nelson hit “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” (the album’s only non-original tune) blows in like a desert wind, arid but comforting, before “Up to No Good Livin’ strikes up a forlorn waltz as it unravels the saga of a reveler (“People call me the Picasso of painting the town”) and his hard won redemption.

But the latter half of “From a Room, Volume 1” turns the lights way down. “I Was Wrong” is all after hours blues – dangerous, electric and refreshing ragged – while “Without Your Love” settles into deeper, darker and more quietly desperate terrain. After a slight reprieve for the hapless recreation of “Them Stems” the record reaches rock bottom with the closing “Death Row,” a prisoner’s unapologetic self-eulogy that seeks understanding more than forgiveness against a slow, doomsday groove. Don’t wait for this one on country radio.

Released two years to the day from when the Grammy-winning debut album “Traveler” hit stores to slowly but very surely introduce Stapleton to the masses, ‘From a Room: Volume 1” reflects a very unforced assuredness as it travels two very different paths. One winds around the country traditions at the heart of Stapleton’s songwriting. The other, which utilizes that earthshaking voice, takes him decidedly away from them. It also leaves you hanging, like any good story will, for where such a journey will take him once “Volume 2” rolls our way later this year.

critic’s pick: preservation hall jazz band, ‘so it is’

Give a blindfold listen to the first two tunes on “So It Is” and the act that comes to mind will likely not be the one making the music – the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, purveyor of the most vintage traditions of New Orleans music.

What ignites the album-opening title track is the upright bass of current PHJB chieftain Ben Jaffe, who co-produced “So It Is” with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek and co-wrote all of the record’s seven compositions. That’s the first clue – acoustic bass, not the usual PHJB underpinning of tuba. Then the song loosens into a late night groove propelled by pianist Kyle Roussel that revels in the kind of boppish, lanky cool one might expect out of New York. But all this is a set up for “Santiago,” a work that explodes into an immediate and quite natural Afro-Cuban groove with Roussel, Jaffe and 84 year old saxophonist Charlie Gabriel (who penned the work with Jaffe). There, the secret of “So It Is” reveals itself. Sure, you can detect hints of New Orleans second line drives throughout the album and a touch of Jelly Roll Morton within Roussell’s jovial playing. But that undercurrent of Dixieland swing that distinguished the PHJB up until the last decade? Forget that. The present day lineup is out to conquer the world – or, at least, the stylistic turf of a prominent regional neighbor.

That’s not to say “So It Is” is in any way a sellout. What unfolds is a rugged, organic sound with a strongly boppish approach to ensemble groove and soloing that utilizes the band’s Crescent City heritage as a launch pad rather than a backdrop.

“La Malanga” perhaps best showcases this decidedly non-revivalist approach with a robust bass, piano and percussion attack that propels the PHJB’s four member horn team with a fearsome ensemble bounce. The rampage, in turn, splinters into criss-crossing exchanges that require a monstrous piano break from Roussel to disperse. Prior to that, “Innocence” tempers the album’s tone but not the sentiment with a lush Cuban groove where Roussel jangles away on Wurlitzer.

The journey ends up back in New Orleans with “Mad.” The song’s hand-clapping, brass happy groove fuels the fun with a “gang vocal” spree (the album’s only non-instrumental passage) that will be bouncing around your brain after just one listen. Guaranteed. The tune is like a welcome home party for a conquering hero of a band that saw the sights, absorbed the inspirations and took them back to Crescent City to mix in the musical gumbo that has always been brewing in the backyard.

(The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been added to the late night lineup at Forecastle in Louisville. It will play a midnight concert on July 15 aboard the Belle of Louisville. For more info, go to forecastlefest.com.)

critic’s pick: ray davies, “americana”

The notion of Ray Davies – headmaster of the Kinks for over three decades, the Lord Mayor of British pop when it began a global invasion in the 1960s – making an album titled “Americana” initially seems unfathomable. Few artists have so been stylistically loyal to home and heritage. Then again, Davies has long been a journeyman with a fascination for American culture. Check out the brilliant 1971 Kinks album “Muswell Hillbillies” to witness the fascinating continental shift that often surfaces in his songs.

So we now have “Americana,” Davies first solo album in nearly a decade, a record mistakenly viewed in early reviews as a love letter to these shores. It isn’t. The work is an often flattering portrait, especially in its literal view of landscape and customs (Kentucky gets two shout-outs in the first three songs). But it doesn’t skirt over blemishes. “The Deal,” for instance, traces a hustler’s West Coast rise to becoming “a (expletive) millionaire” with a chorus that paraphrases Gershwin (“isn’t it wonderful, marvelous?”) before inverting to reveal the ugly American underneath (“totally fabulous, fraudulent, bogus and unreal”). If that wasn’t enough, the song also channels the Kinks in a descending guitar chord Davies has employed numerous times (most notably on 1965’s “Tired of Waiting for You”) before slipping in an entire verse of 1986’s forgotten “How Are You” as the tune fades.

Davies’ thematic as well as stylistic devotion to his material on “Americana” extends to employing The Jayhawks as a backup ensemble. It’s not group chieftain Gary Louris who figures prominently in the alliance, though, but vocalist/keyboardist Karen Grotberg, who duets with Davies on the travelogue-by-train tune “A Place in Your Heart.” It struts along with a jamboree-style variation of the Kinks’ trademark pop, but leans to the bittersweet.

True to form, there are many instances where the sounds inhabiting “Americana” live up to the album title. “The Mystery Room” slinks along with an infectious mash-up of Cajun, blues and earthy roots-rock. “A Long Drive Home to Texarkana” lingers with the elegiac feel of a classic ballad that the mirror mile markers, literal and figurative, within the song. But the album closing “Wings of Fantasy” is all Kinks-style pop in full royal splendor.

Davies sings with his usual casual, animated authority, but there is now an unmistakable weariness in his voice, especially in two spoken word passages, “The Man Upstairs” and “Silent Movie.” The latter also reveals a sense of jealous mortality as he recounts a conversation with Alex Chilton about how a song is ageless while the artist singing it isn’t. “It cheats time and makes you feel safe,” Chilton told him. “But the reality is things are changing in the world.”

“Americana,” then, offers a view of a changing landscape, both adored and ridiculed, as presented by one of the most learned pop statesmen of any age.

critic’s picks: the jazz at lincoln center orchestra with wynton marsalis featuring jon batiste, ‘the music of john lewis’

There are five sterling minutes early into the “The Music of John Lewis,” a deeply satisfying new concert recording by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, where guest artist Jon Batiste gives the host ensemble a break in order to seek the spirit of a gentle jazz giant on his own. What results is a sublime solo reading of “Django,” one of Lewis’ many signature tunes with the Modern Jazz Quartet from over a half century ago. For the composer it was an ode to the famed gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and reflected an inherent sense of swing with the kind of reserved elegance only Lewis could summon. In Baptiste’s version, the song becomes a more global travelogue criss-crossing between its Euro-classical heritage and Americanized struts through New Orleans, a region Baptiste and Jazz at Lincoln Center trumpeter/musical director Wynton Marsalis know well.

Marsalis and the Orchestra, perhaps more than any other nationally recognized jazz performance institution, are scholars at presenting retrospective primer programs designed to enlighten new generations to the career works of jazz masters without making the music sound stuffy or overly academic. But they are really in their element when they veer off more obvious stylistic paths. Lewis and the MJQ were hardly hermits, but with all of the group members long deceased, its sound now falls in danger of being forgotten. What a quietly glorious sound it was, too. Its music was the epitome of jazz cool and refinement with a novel instrumental design of piano, vibraphone bass and drums.

As usual, Marsalis and the Orchestra don’t set out to recreate the music, especially in terms of arrangements. For instance, the slinky turns of clarinet by Victor Goines introducing the album opening quintet reading of  “2 Degrees East, 3 Degrees West” suggests a blues variation on Gershwin (an inspiration that later plays out far more literally on “Delaunay’s Dilemma”) before guest guitarist Doug Wamble sets the blues in stone with a wiry, heavily atmospheric solo. Batiste then enters bearing a beautifully channeled inhabitation of Lewis’ piano grace.

The Orchestra’s dynamics later set up an animated exchange between Batiste and Marsalis during “Piazza Navona” that leap frogs between ensemble swing and more pastoral reprieves.

It should be noted that the performance from which “The Music of John Lewis” was taken was presented in January 2013, a full 2 ½ years before Batiste’s career broke open with his nightly television residency as bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” This recording shows how complete an artist Batiste already was by rescuing the repertoire of a stylist being edged closer to jazz oblivion and subsequently providing the music a new platform for a new generation. The results are sublime.

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