Though he recently turned 80, Bennett continues to make music, and on this disc he s joined by 18 guest vocalists and gives a standout solo performance on I Left My Heart In San Francisco.
Bennett is, of course, a consummate artist who could sing a shopping list and make it swing. So the success, or otherwise, of this disc of standards depends entirely on the singers with whom he is paired, both how well they perform and how well they mesh with Bennett.
There are some surprises. The Dixie Chicks swing like it was the 30s on Lullaby of Broadway, Juanes is magnificent on The Shadow of Your Smile, and Bono is remarkably at ease duetting on I Wanna Be Around. On each of these tracks, the voices complement one another, enhancing the performance.
That s not the case on some other cuts. Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion are overpowering, and the mix doesn t quite work with James Taylor ( Put On A Happy Face ) or Stevie Wonder ( For Once In My Life ).
Duets is never less than listenable, and is a much-deserved tribute to an American icon. But for a good part of the disc you wish the guests had just sent a birthday card, and let Bennett have the microphone to himself.
This debut album by the Elvis White band brings Caribbean music well into the new millenium, mixing the happy rhythms of soca, the hypnotic backbeat of reggae, and the sharp, running commentary of hip-hop. The band has already made a mark with the album s first single, I Promise You, with help from rap artist AKON.
By no means is this the kind of soca that evolved from what used to be called calypso music. These folks Elvis White also is the name of the lead singer come from the British Virgin Islands with their own take on contemporary island sounds, and have already won some notable honors including best new artist in the Reggae Soca Music Awards.
Pianist Marc Carey has played with several top-shelf jazz musicians and indie songwriter Ani DiFranco, but there s an obvious level of comfort for him in the trio format. He shows just how warm, fresh, lively, and inspiring his own musical vision can be with Sameer Gupta on percussion and David Ewell on bass.
It s not an over-the-top cross-pollination of world beat rhythms and musical genres, but these three blend exotic influences with American jazz, from Carey s dual roots in Native American and African-American music to Gupta s classical Indian style. It s beautiful, dynamic, robust, deep, and with a trance-like quality, whether it s an uptempo number or Carey s moving piano solo on Taiwa.
The threesome provides some amazing improvisation throughout an album that seemingly gets better with each song. Fans of the underground dance music scene might also recognize Carey as producer Marco Polo.
Chambers has a voice that a country diva would die 10 times for. It s a twangy instrument with a tinge of girlishness that rubs away any hint of hillbilly with its sweet grit. But it s also a potentially divisive musical tool, falling hard into the love it or hate it category, sort of like a less quirky Iris DeMent.
Chambers, an Australian making her fourth disc, writes songs that balance the line between alt-country and mainstream singer/songwriter, taking full advantage of her expressive vocals and crisp arrangements.
Nothing here s going to break her big on country radio, unfortunately, and if anything she strays further into latter-day Dixie Chicks territory, crafting thoroughly professional songs that are impossible to pigeonhole. But it s good stuff and worth exploring for its tasty, easygoing vibe and the killer ballad Hard Road.
CANNONBALL, Pat Green (BNA) Over 14 songs it becomes clear how Green developed a fan base and growing cult following before signing with a major label. As an independent, he built a reputation as he toured with Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and the Dave Matthews Band. He applies his slightly gruff baritone to a fine mix of distinctive and energetic country rock, with some unusual backbeats and solid melodies. K.R.
THE LAST KISS, Various Artists (Lakeshore) This warm, wonderful, and uplifting soundtrack melds a 12 recent-year songs from Coldplay, Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Snow Patrol, and others with three written and performed this year by relative newcomers Joshua Radin and Cary Brothers. Produced for a movie that touches on the themes of alienation and longing, the soundtrack hits its mark and leaves you coming back for more. T.H.