What our critics are listening to

04:16 PM, Feb 18, 2013

Singer Avant has released his seventh CD. (Frederick M. Brown)/


THE JAZZ AGE. Ferry, who has a deft hand in re-interpreting other musicians’ music (his 1999 salute to ’30s jazz, As Time Goes By), has re-cast his own songs as wistful relics of the 1920s. At long last, we can close our eyes and see Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald dancing across the floor and toward the bar to Roxy Music’s “Avalon.” With Roxy Music and his solo albums, Ferry’s sound is so polished, and his voice is so suave, that the biggest surprise here is that he doesn’t sing on the album. It’s entirely instrumental. Established musicians going retro is so common now, it’s been relegated to a cliché (Rod Stewart, put away that damn Great American Songbook!). And certainly Tom Waits dwells in this room, albeit with a more-contemporary ear, and darker intent. But this is a new approach for a musician re-inventing his music. In the wrong hands, it’s a gimmick. Here, it’s an exciting success. — JEFF SPEVAK


FACE THE MUSIC. It only takes listening to a few songs on this 12-cut CD to figure out Avant’s musical strategy: Hit the ladies with romantic jams but make the lyrics cool enough for the fellas to enjoy it, too. This is the seventh, yes, seventh, CD from the R&B crooner who fans first took note of in 2000 due to his cover of “My First Love” featuring Keke Wyatt. The pair hook up again with “You & I” and the magic between the two is still there. For the players trying to grow a heart, he confesses that he likes to play the field over ethereal melodies in “Don’t Know How.” The mood shifts a bit, from modern R&B to ’60s soul on uptempo “Nobody’s Business.” But the mix of modern R&B, Avant’s solid vocals and crisp production meld perfectly on the uptempo “Toast To Love.” Avant continues to release smooth R&B; here’s hoping he doesn’t get lost in the discussion of soul singers worth listening to. — SHEILA RAYAM


THE L.A. SESSIONS. This is a stellar example of a first-class piano-bass-drums trio, perhaps the most popular way to explore the intricacies of jazz. This version is as it should be — an organic threesome, playing as one. On piano is German-born Markus Burger, a classically trained musician with a lovely light feel that carries echoes for me of the trilling of Keith Jarrett, the lyrical introspection of Bill Evans, and the thoughtful, clean playing of Tommy Flanagan. And those are serious echoes to offer. On bass is Bob Magnusson, a melodic, rhythmic player with an extensive résumé. And on drums, and the initial reason I sought out the album, is the tasty Joe La Barbera, the L.A. player and Mount Morris native. Here he shows his typical versatility, but especially his exquisite work on brushes. — JACK GARNER