Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

POP MUSIC REVIEW

Joe Henry exhibits jazzy pieces at Getty Center

Literate lyrics and smart arrangements elevate the singer-songwriter's music to a new level.

October 06, 2003|Steve Hochman | Special to the Times

Joe Henry quipped Friday night that "you know something's dead when they put it in a museum." Given he was on stage at the Getty Center's Harold M. Williams Auditorium, Henry noted that he's revising that point of view.

The singer-songwriter and his three-piece band were very much alive, with invitingly accessible music that dares to not dumb down. In fact, the literate lyrics and personalized mix of jazz elements with singer-songwriter roots both on his "Tiny Voices" album and in this concert is a matter of smarting up.

If that sounds like an aloof, intellectual exercise, it's actually quite sensual, fully realizing the jazz-adjacent approaches Henry initiated on 2001's stunning "Scar." On the new album, with such touches as jazzman Don Byron's bass clarinet, Henry creates swirls of sound comparable to Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" or Joni Mitchell's "Hejira."

Even with the stripped-down backing trio of keyboardist Patrick Warren, bassist Jennifer Condos and drummer Jay Bellerose, the enraptured "Sold" sounded as if it could have been written for Chet Baker, while the new album's title song called to mind a never-was collaboration of Mitchell and Miles Davis. Ultimately, it's not jazz in the same way that Peter Gabriel's music is not African. There was jazz-derived telepathy in the instrumental interplay Friday, but it's not about jazz-style soloing.

It's about shaping the music around the emotional content of Henry's intimate portraits of people becoming lost in each other, or lost in themselves. Sung in a voice somewhere between Morrison and Tom Waits, the songs are simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking -- worthy of museum display.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|