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Ross Boissoneau - January 12th, 2006
Genesis – The Platinum Collection (Rhino Records)
This three-disc retrospective takes listeners on a journey through the band’s catalog as it progressed from progressive darlings, with Peter Gabriel in the lead role, to a pop hit-making machine with one-time drummer Phil Collins out front. And the hits are all here, from “Mama” to “Illegal Alien” to “Tonight Tonight Tonight.” As well, there are selected Gabriel-era tunes such as “Cinema Show,” “Supper’s Ready,” even “The Knife” from 1971. As hits collections go, it’s got most everything, though extremely conspicuous by their absence are “Eleventh Earl of Mar,” the lead track from “Wind and Wuthering,” and especially “Watcher of the Skies.” That tune, with its ponderous mellotron and Collins’s Morse code rhythms on cymbals, was in many ways the definitive track from the band’s early years, and as such it certainly should have been included here.

Jesse Cook – The Ultimate Jesse Cook (Narada)
Flamenco? Jazz? Worldbeat? Classical? New Age? Guitarist supreme Jesse Cook hits them all, and probably a few other genres, on this two-disc collection. Cook starts off with the rollicking “Mario Takes A Walk,” his fingers flying over the fretboard. The same is true on the following “Air.” He obviously can sizzle, but he’s sensitive too. Case in point: “Breathing Below Surface,” where he extracts maximum voltage from an unusually restrained approach. He gets exotic on “Baghdad” and “Surrender.” And that’s only half of the first disc of this two-CD set. All of his six Narada albums are worth owning, but those who would like to familiarize themselves with his breathtaking acoustic excursions will enjoy this 26-song retrospective, which includes cuts from every album.


Hiromi – Spiral (Telarc)
Japanese-born and America-educated pianist Hiromi may lead what looks like a traditional jazz trio, but don’t be fooled. Though much of her music draws from the likes of Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal, her use of synthesizers and her style takes her to places far beyond. Rather than the traditional route of taking solos from melodies, this music swirls and zips from end to end. And if the music on “Spiral” doesn’t make that clear, there’s the accompanying DVD, which shows Hiromi attacking a synthesizer placed atop her grand piano. Her rhythm section gets in on the act too, supporting her and also going out on their own. Bassist Tony Grey makes the opening title track as much his own as it is Hiromi’s. His rapid-fire staccato solo is impossibly fast and precise, giving way to Hiromi’s gentle solo. She gets her licks in too, of course, as on “Reverse,” yet she never loses her sense of swing.


Swing Out Sister – Live (Shanachie)
And you thought the ‘80s were over. Yet Swing Out Sister still fills the airwaves, particularly the smooth jazz stations, though Corrine Drewery and Andy Connell are firmly anchored in the British pop tradition. This live set was originally on their private label and sold on their club tour last summer, but it really bears little resemblance to that band. Keyboardist and co-leader Connell was absent from those shows, but at least the band had a horn section. Given the importance of trumpets and sax on hits like “Am I The Same Girl?” and “Breakout,” the hornless versions on this CD are interesting if not immediately embraceable. Covers of “La La Means I Love You” and “Stoned Soul Picnic” are engaging, and classic SOS tracks like “Forever Blue,” “Am I The Same Girl” and “Twilight World” benefit from the new arrangements.
 
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