Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - Page 11 News List

CD reviews

By Jon Caramanica, Jon Pareles and Nate Chinen  /  NY Times News Service

Olsson rarely uses the same approach twice. She summons the Baroque chug of a Vivaldi suite in Dinosaur, the insistent plucking of Joanna Newsom in Giddy Up!, quivery tremolo chords in the whispery ballad Fortune, and the unswerving pulse of Minimalism under a wordless chorus in the song whose only lyric is its title, Summer. And for all the studio craftsmanship that goes into the songs, they end up sounding like simple declarations of emotion, like her final words on the album, tearfully confided over elegiac chords in Never Again: “I have tried so many times to be a good and forgiving girl. It is through.” With this album, Olsson joins the international ranks of loop enthusiasts — songwriters like Andrew Bird, Theresa Andersson, Ana Laan and Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards — whose ingenious methods disappear into their songs.

— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service

Gathering Call, by Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski

One common complaint in jazz circles is that the music has grown too labyrinthine and interior for casual comprehension, sealing itself off from a lay audience. Whether or not you buy into that argument, there’s no way to pin the problem on Matt Wilson.

A drummer and bandleader drawn to exuberant gestures, he has held fast to a value system that prizes simplicity and sincerity, rugged effort and sturdy design. This is especially true of any and all albums by the Matt Wilson Quartet, from the late 1990s onward. Gathering Call, the newest of these, augments the current edition of the quartet — Wilson, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, saxophonist Jeff Lederer and bassist Chris Lightcap — with a featured guest pianist, John Medeski.

It’s an album of unabashed swing and unassuming expedition, drawing no distinctions between the two. Wilson, who will turn 50 this year, seemingly leads from his ear as a composer, forming each tune around the spine of a melody. He isn’t afraid to repeat himself: The same fanfare, effectively the last four notes of a major scale, appears as a refrain in Some Assembly Required and the album’s title track. When he reaches for a meditative air, as on Hope (For the Cause), he finds room for stillness and starkness.

As usual, he also forages in some of the neglected corners of jazz repertory, coming up with choice morsels by Charlie Rouse (Pumpkin’s Delight), Hugh Lawson (Get Over, Get Off and Get On) and Butch Warren (Barack Obama), along with Duke Ellington (Main Stem and a later, lesser-known theme, You Dirty Dog). The strong performances by his band, and the subtle but serious lift provided by Medeski, makes Wilson’s choice of tunes seem both wise and like no big deal.

The garish outlier is a version of If I Were a Boy, the 2008 Beyonce hit, that Wilson has been playing live for a few years. At this point it’s neither timely nor transformative, and its inclusion feels too much like a bid for popular appeal. But that’s assuming Wilson hasn’t simply fallen in love with playing the tune. I wouldn’t put it past him.

— Nate Chinen, NY Times News Service

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