Radical Comfort

Hey Mr. Sax Man, you're the hidden king of rock and roll, or whatever it is

Pick Hits

Live in the World
(Thirsty Ear)

It's a fine cosmic joke, the way radical sounds turn comforting as they grow old. I've played these three CDs for atmosphere during a Vermont retreat, for solace after a disturbing afternoon with my demented 90-year-old dad—for the organic integrity of live free, for chaos rendered beautiful. Tune in anywhere except the one bass solo per disc that William Parker gets for holding the world together and you'll hear saxophonist Ware or perhaps pianist Matthew Shipp or briefly one of the three drummers creating music that eschews the signposts, anchors, and trivial pleasures pop fans can't and shouldn't do without. Shipp is a lovely man and a wide-ranging artist, but in no other context is he so solid, and Ware's ideas flow nonstop. After all these years it's clear that he commands one of the great sounds in tenor sax history, very nearly on a par with Rollins, Coltrane, Webster—huge yet lyrical, and so loose. I prefer disc two for Hamid Drake, who drives harder than Susie Ibarra or Guillermo Brown. I recommend "Aquarian Sound" Parker and all, "Part Two" of Freedom Suite, and, definitely, "The Way We Were." A MINUS

Out of Nowhere
(Half Note)

Though 2004's Live at Baker's Keyboard Lounge is as warm a blowing session as he's laid down, this all too self-sufficient virtuoso gravitates to concept albums, in part because he's no writer. This can be tricky—his Billie Holiday tribute is dreadful, and his Pavement covers reflect poorly on the alt-rock groove. But the organ-trio format so derided in jazzbo land suits his vulgar gusto perfectly—it's made for showoffs and delights in the impolite sounds he can extract from any number of saxophones at will. My favorite pits his avant-honking tenor against guest Hamiet Bluiett's avant-honking baritone on guest James Blood Ulmer's "Highjack." Ulmer also gets to sing "Little Red Rooster." The vocal-less finale is "I Believe I Can Fly." The organist is Gerard Gibbs. A MINUS

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

The great thing about this album is how untranscendent it is, as if these lads know the guitar-band pleasures are cons. Sing-along tunes? Breakneck momentum? Next-big-thing ambition? Saturday-night swindles every one. Instead Alex Taylor and crew evoke club life as it is actually experienced. They sound like not knowing the doorman, like moving on a girl you think isn't pretty enough, like missing the bus in a leather jacket that doesn't keep out the cold. Many details are too U.K.-specific for Yank-yob gratification. But aesthetes will come to enjoy Taylor's nuanced adenoids and his bandmates' thought-through arrangements. A MINUS

Creation Rebel: The Original Classic Recordings From Studio One

Before he started wailing to wake up the dead, Winston Rodney tried to find a place within the harmony trio format imposed by Studio One's Clement Dodd. This is the record of that struggle—not always as songful as Dodd (or we) might prefer, but whenever you tune in, somebody will do something that makes you ooh inside of a minute. "Door Peeper"? "This Population"? "Weeping and Wailing" (natch)? "Creation Rebel" itself? Those are songs. The "hip hip hooray" of "What a Happy Day"? Saddest ever recorded. A MINUS


Although slotted as soul or techno according to the interests of the slotter, this veteran U.K. dance music producer is neither. He moves in more select company: less genius than late Chic or recent Prince, but far more daring than Daniel Bedingfield or Craig David. Although Lidell's voice lacks muscle and butter, he knows how to launch a falsetto, and the beats on "A Little Bit More" and "The City" should not be played within earshot of anyone wearing a pacemaker. He goes out on a wan five-minute ballad called "Game for Fools." But before then he's stated his creed with a lyric recommended to all white guys in the future-funk game, which also isn't for fools: "I'm a question mark, walking talking question mark/But what is the question again?" A MINUS

Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert

I counted: pianist Stephen Scott and trombonist Clifton Anderson solo for 15-plus minutes apiece on this 72-minute album, which documents a 9/15/01 Boston concert down to the introductory remarks and standing ovations. Understandably, the material includes three meditative standards, and unsurprisingly, Rollins meditates up a storm at several speeds. The historical moment only intensifies his religious feelings about music; he's humble and masterful, questioning and joyous, swinging and polyrhythmic. Scott fits in, running changes with a satisfying physicality. But the heightened circumstances make clear that Anderson's main job in this band is to give the boss breathing room. And under the circumstances, there's too much of it. B PLUS


Got no idea whether this is true grime because I never knew what grime was to begin with. The Brit accents on the pseudo-triumphalist, vaguely Jeezy-sounding four-cameo opener are grime enough for me—most gripping grime I know, in fact, and pretty damn fine Jeezy-sounding pseudo-triumphalism to boot. Offenses against purity abound—girl choruses and duets, guy who argues endearingly if unconvincingly that "shanking" isn't commercial, and a Nas fan with a pink penis who tells a mildly grisly story backwards whilst strumming an acoustic guitar very hard. Letdown: Sway, touted as this year's, you remember, Dizzee Rascal. Disappointment: paucity of Jeezy-sounding pseudo-triumphalism. A MINUS

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