Tue, Jan 22, 2013 - Page 12 News List

CD reviews

FADE, by Yo La Tengo; MIGRATIONS, by Cristina Pato; CROSS CULTURE, by Joe Lovano Us Five

By Jon Pareles, Nate Chinen, Ben Ratliff  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The record isn’t making any kind of argument on behalf of free improvising. But Lovano isn’t partisan like that. There’s a gold-star version here of one of jazz’s most elegant ballad standards, Billy Strayhorn’s Star Crossed Lovers, with rustling free rhythm at the beginning and end and easy swing in the middle. Lovano’s performance is a knockout. Both he and Weidman play with care and attention to the song’s changes; Spalding plays a melodic, songlike bass solo. But right after that comes a runic, short-melody, Paul Motian-inspired piece called Journey Within, and then Drum Chant, a raw and generous jam session that at a little over four minutes feels too long. Cross Culture covers the bases, showing you all it can do, though surely not out of a desire to impress. It’s a record with very little anxiety.

Sometimes too little. Even Lovano’s scrappiest pieces here remain essentially placid. It’s a semi-problem that Charles Lloyd’s records can have, too: The coolness of both these bandleaders is a rare force in the world, but how much of it can you take before your attention slips? Lovano is taking a step back from the material of jazz and looking at its motivating forces; implicitly, he’s asking why we make it in the first place. As long as the question lingers in your head, the album works. When the music slackens and the tension dissipates, the question goes away.

— Ben Ratliff, NY Times News Service

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