Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I don't feature jazz on this site quite as often as I'd like, but I had to share Don Byron's version of the Motown hit "Reach Out, I'll Be There."
The Bronx born Byron is a fine clarinetist, but it's his approach to making records that I believe sets him apart from the rest. Whether tackling klezmer or hip-hop or free jazz or post-bop, Don Byron has always kept the listener on his toes. Not every concept succeeds. I found "Do The Boomerang," his tribute to Motown legend Junior Walker a bit safe and too easy a listen. The record featured here, "A Fine Line," is one of my favorites, though the handful of vocal tracks with guests such as Cassandra Wilson are my least favorite moments. (All Music feels differently about the vocal tracks.)
Here's a bit of what David Adler of All Music has to say:
Arias and lieder are forms strongly associated with classical music, yet clarinetist Don Byron defines them in a newly expansive way for this remarkable project. To Byron, arias and lieder belong not only to classical figures, but also to writers as diverse as Ornette Coleman, Roy Orbison, Stevie Wonder, Henry Mancini, and Stephen Sondheim.
These duo and solo vignettes frame the full ensemble pieces, on which Byron and Caine are joined by Jerome Harris, Paulo Braga, and a number of very effective guest vocalists.
Patricia O'Callaghan takes a turn on Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay," an epic piece which Byron infuses with a strong dose of calypso. Both vocalists are joined by Dean Bowman and Harris to form a four-voice choir on Henry Mancini's "Soldier in the Rain." And finally, the great Cassandra Wilson turns in a spellbinding performance on Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch."
Listen to both Byron and pianist Uri Caine as they slink through this Motown classic. I was moved. Purists of both jazz and pop music may not be, but it's worth a shot.
REACH OUT, I'LL BE THERE