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Turtle Island Quartet A Love Supreme The Legacy of John Coltrane (Telarc) Covering adventurous jazz is nothing new for the Turtle Island Quartet, but
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TURTLE ISLAND QUARTET
A Love Supreme — The Legacy of John Coltrane (Telarc)

Covering adventurous jazz is nothing new for the Turtle Island Quartet, but even by their lofty standards, their latest excursion in the genre, recorded live in the studio, is quite an achievement. Mixing superbly crafted arrangements with flashes of inspired improvisation, the foursome — David Balakrishnan and Evan Price on violins, Mads Tolling on viola and Mark Summer on cello — put an entirely new spin on the music of John Coltrane as they hit a number of high points of the sax great's canon, including the multipart title track, “Naima,” “Countdown,” the ubiquitous (but always great!) “My Favorite Things,” and a couple of Trane's best-known outings with Miles Davis, “‘Round Midnight” and “So What.” The arrangements are fascinating: They unpredictably combine some of the melodic and harmonic components of the originals, along with portions of Coltrane's transcribed solos, a lot of new harmonic ideas, and improvisations as the connective tissue between the written-out elements. There are passages that sound like they could've been written by Bartok, followed by speedy improvs that clearly come down the line from Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli (and, of course, Coltrane himself). But all the sophisticated arrangement ideas wouldn't amount to much if the music didn't swing; and this does. Part of it is the musicians’ innate understanding of the actual and implied rhythmic undercurrents in Coltrane's writing and playing, and a lot, quite frankly, is Mark Summer's insistent plucked and bowed cello work, which can bring a loose jazz authority to even the most formal and intricate passages.

LISTEN: Audio Clip
Model Trane.mp3

Producer: Thomas C. Moore. Engineer: Michael Bishop. Sonoma (DSD) engineer: Gus Skinas. Studio: Skywalker Sound.
Blair Jackson

CHARLIE LOUVIN
Charlie Louvin (Tompkins Square)

The duets-with-a-legend format has become commonplace, but such collections are not all cut from the same cloth. Still Standing (2006) by Jerry Lee Lewis and friends is a playground for The Killer. The “guests” Lewis covers are only subtle influences over the headliner's piano acrobatics and raging voice. Conversely, Charlie Louvin's vocals are bolstered by other singers and songwriters on Charlie Louvin, a celebration of Louvin's devotion to traditional country and gospel. George Jones, Jeff Tweedy, Elvis Costello and others trade verses with Louvin on heartfelt versions of Louvin Brothers songs (“Great Atomic Power,” “When I Stop Dreaming”), as well as others Louvin hand-picked (A.P. Carter's “Worried Man Blues,” Jimmie Rodgers' “Waiting for a Train”). At age 79, Louvin's voice has thinned, but conveys undiminished sweetness and feeling. He owns these songs, and so should you.

LISTEN: Audio Clip
Great Atomic Power.mp3

Producers: Mark Nevers and Charlie Louvin. Engineer/mixer: Nevers. Studio: The Beech House (Nashville). Mastering: Jim Demain/Yes Master (Nashville).
Barbara Schultz

THE CINEMATICS
A Strange Education (TVT)

You gotta feel for these guys: Review after review after review compares The Cinematics to Franz Ferdinand because both bands are from Glasgow, Scotland. But that's really about the only similarity: Franz Ferdinand digs deep into their emo/new wave bag of tricks, while The Cinematics draw heavily on pop/rock influences like The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen. The album starts out with the guitar-infused “Race to the City,” providing a wonderful base for the frenzy to follow. The album then mostly fluctuates between hard-hitting tunes (“Ready Now”) and more melodic vocal-powered ditties (“A Strange Education,” “Chase”), with an occasional guitar-heavy anthem (“Rise & Fall”) thrown in. A strong debut, to be sure. Take note: The enhanced CD includes four videos and live versions of certain tracks.

LISTEN: Audio Clip
A Strange Education.mp3

Producers: Stephen Hague, Simon “Barny” Barnicott. Engineer: David Wrench. Mixers: Hague, Bob Kraushaar. Studio: Real World Studios, Bryn Derwen (Wales), Sahara Sound (London).
Sarah Benzuly

BEBEL GILBERTO
Momento (Six Degrees)

Some are drawn to Bebel Gilberto's “new Brazilian sound,” that cosmopolitan blend of smooth electronica and bossa nova. Me, I'm in love with that sultry voice; she could sing the McDonald's menu in her sweet, breathy Portuguese and I'd swoon. But there's something for all of us on her third album, Momento, which demonstrates Gilberto's real maturity as a songwriter, and a fresh production style — courtesy of Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Seal, et al) — that still pays homage to her legendary lineage. Gilberto wrote or co-wrote most of the tracks herself. (My favorite exception is Cole Porter's “Night and Day.”) And though I'm partial to the more traditional acoustic stylings of Gilberto's self-titled second album, I'm warming up to these lush electronica mixes — maybe because those easy vocal melodies still shine right through.

LISTEN: Audio Clip
Momento.mp3

Producers: Guy Sigsworth, Bebel Gilberto, Didi Gutman, Sabina Sciubba, Beco Dranoff, Berna Ceppas, Kassin. Engineers: Sean McGhee, Jason Corsaro, Gutman, Brian Montgomery, Antoine Midani, Edu Costa, Ceppas. More at www.mixonline.com
Sarah Jones

THE BIRD AND THE BEE
The Bird and The Bee (Metro Blue)

What's in a name? Frankly, the reason this disc caught my eye is one-half of this duo is Inara George, daughter of the late Little Feat mastermind Lowell George. Stylistically, this music couldn't be further from Lowell's, but like his, it's quirky and far from the mainstream. Inara's partner in the group, Greg Kurstin, plays (nearly) all the instruments and handled the production and engineering; a talented dude. Most of the tracks are marked by a modern minimalism — rudimentary electronic percussion, some keys, multiple stacked vocals; plenty of air. A couple of tracks also show that Kurstin has clearly studied at the altar of Brian Wilson — that's a good thing. All in all, it's a pretty strange brew, but Inara's got such a sweet voice and an appealingly odd persona, it's quite a compelling listen.

Producer/engineer: Greg Kurstin. Studio: Echo Studios. Mastering: Gavin Lurssen/The Mastering Lab.
Blair Jackson