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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ

Carter Finds a Partner for 'Mr. Bow-Tie'

February 23, 1996|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

** 1/2

RON CARTER

"Mr. Bow-tie"

"Blue Note"

Bassist Ron Carter has often been ill-served by his own recordings. Those that have succeeded, including the 1970 lost classic "Uptown Conversation" and the four-star 1978 trio date "Third Plane," feature Carter on equal footing with his sidemen, rather than upfront and over-amplified in the leader's chair.

"Mr. Bow-tie" again finds Carter embracing the group concept, with a strong combo that includes pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, saxophonist Edwin Russel, saxophonist Javon Jackson and drummer Lewis Nash. Rubalcaba seems most in tune with Carter, adding enlightening accompaniment and considered solos that stand in contrast to his usually dense, fiery play.

The bassist works with the usual clipped tones and short lines. His consistent, slightly skewered sense of pitch gives each solo an engaging, off-balance feel and a deep sense of character.

The freshest-sounding numbers of the 10 here are the six written by Carter. His "Fill In the Blanks" and "Waiting for the Beep" show that the bassist is adept at writing serious jazz vehicles and bringing them to life.

BARBARA DENNERLEIN: "Take Off!" "Verve" **

Barbara Dennerlein has committed the organist's ultimate sin. She's sold her soul.

Although Dennerlein's previous releases for the Enja label were marked with purpose and artistic promise, her Verve debut probably will succeed on a more commercial level. There are a number of glossy, sometimes over-produced originals here, based on familiar beats and chord patterns that seem designed for release as singles.

These range from the accessibly clever though eventually tedious title tune to the overbearing vamp of "Victory Blues." Even Dennerlein's arrangement of Tad Dameron's "Hot House" manages to turn that perennial workout into a slick, characterless affair. But there are also some fine moments on the disc that suggest Dennerlein hasn't completely lost her way.

** 1/2

COURTNEY PINE

"Modern Day Jazz Stories"

"Antilles"

British saxophonist Courtney Pine has a history of mixing jazz and other musical idioms, working to reggae beats on the '92 recording "Closer to Home," experimenting with African and East Indian rhythms and instrumentation on "To the Eyes of Creation." Now the 31-year-old veteran turns to hip-hop culture for inspiration.

Pine's rhythm section--keyboardist Geri Allen, bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Ronnie Burrage--is supplemented by turntable work from DJ Pogo, whose scratch and dub sounds beef up the beat with recurring riffs and phrases.

Pine also uses turntable dubs to give a modern stamp to the mainstream-style pieces like the Jazz Messenger-styled romp "Each One Must Teach One" or the John Coltrane vamp "Dah Blessing." A pair of vocal numbers featuring Cassandra Wilson also mark this as a contemporary affair.

Although it's not an acid jazz album, "Modern Day Jazz Stories" should bring acid fans as well as hip-hoppers into the Pine fold. And despite the contemporary touches, true jazz fans will find much to like here as well.

* Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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