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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Sounds: Egan delivers powerful, confident contemporary jazz

Grammy-winning bassist/composer Mark Egan has come up with one of the best albums in contemporary jazz I've heard in a long time.

With a fiery mix of energy, power, and confidence rarely heard in a bass guitarist since the late Jaco Pastorius (who, perhaps not so coincidentally, once served as his teacher and mentor), Egan delivers big-time on a number of blistering solos.

So does Bill Evans on saxophone, Mitch Forman on keyboards, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and Roger Squitero on percussion. Though this is Egan's sixth recording as a leader, it's his new group's debut album. As is almost always the case when jazz is at its best, everyone's seemingly off doing his own thing while also meshing together quite nicely.

This is an 11-song set of material that pushes musical boundaries while being largely joyful and upbeat - complex, but not mathematical or mundane. Also a session player and sideman over the past 30 years, Egan has provided rhythm to anyone from the Pat Metheney Group to Sting to Pat Martino.

He does a great job of incorporating fusion and funk, showing the influence that Metheney and Pastorius have had on him.

- TOM HENRY

This 11-song treat is subtitled "A Tribute To Country Music Heroes," which seems a bit of a stretch considering Parsons wasn't old enough to have seen many of these artists whose sounds he echoes. His voice sounds as young as his 22 years, yet he nails the feelings of the stars he emulates with his own creations.

Thanks to a combination of recorded and broadcast music, Parsons studied the old-time greats enough to give new life to the ghosts of Hank Williams, Faron Young, and Conway Twitty, plus a few still active, such as the Grascals and George Strait. The background instrumental work, no-nonsense lyrics, and delivery styles seem to be taken right from the vaults of classic country crooners.

With a hint of tremolo in Parsons' voice, the traditional country music here is both innovative and interesting. The melodies are fresh, dressing up messages that remain simple yet thought-provoking.

Banjo, acoustic and steel guitars, drum, bass, and fiddle are all used sparingly and effectively throughout this mostly feel-good stuff. Parson's original treat, "Since My Baby Left Me," is a bit of a contradiction, however, as an upbeat downer. The 11th track is a production of the title track as an old 78 rpm record, sounding like it's played on an old, slightly scratchy record player.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

For another fun - albeit unremarkable - look back at some of the most popular '80s-era music as well as a couple of songs worthy of more radio airplay back then, this new soundtrack passes the test.

With David Bowie's 1983 comeback hit, "Modern Love," Talking Heads' anxiety-ridden "Once in a Lifetime," Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home," INXS with "What You Need," and Men Without Hats (remember the nutty, bouncy "Safety Dance?"), the disc runs the gamut from pop to punk to metal while in no way being a definitive collection.

It's an OK sampler, at best, but there's nothing wrong with that. Early rap is represented by Salt 'N Pepa's "Push It," and one of the decade's biggest rap artists, Public Enemy, opens the disc with a 2010 rendition of its 1988 hit, "Louder Than A Bomb."

Actor Craig Robinson even does decent covers of Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" and The Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started."

- TOM HENRY


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