Honor roll: Jazz albums

Each of these Jazz albums has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Album:Gladiator: Music from the Motion Picture

Gladiator: Music from the Motion Picture

Hans Zimmer, Lisa Gerrard

Most modern Hollywood films have musical “temp tracks” laid in as they’re edited, usually classical standards or music from other soundtracks that helps shape the dramatic and emotional intentions of works in progress. Sometimes these temp tracks become the score (as in “2001”), but more often they serve as a template for the film’s eventual scorer. That said, we’ll boldly climb out on a limb and opine that director Ridley Scott was listening to a whole lot of Holst’s The Planets as he was cobbling together his modern gladiator epic. Credit Hans Zimmer for…

Album:Come Away with Me

Come Away with Me

Norah Jones

It is not just the timbre of Norah Jones’s voice that is mature beyond her 22 years. Her assured phrasing and precise time are more often found in older singers as well. She is instantly recognizable, blending shades of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone without sounding like anyone but herself. Any way you slice it, she is a singer to be reckoned with. Her readings of the Hank Williams classic “Cold Cold Heart” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” alone are worth the price of the CD. Jones’s own material, while not bad, pales a bit next to such masterpieces.…

Album:The Talented Mr. Ripley: Music from the Motion Picture

The Talented Mr. Ripley: Music from the Motion Picture

Gabriel Yared

In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) becomes a master at taking on another’s identity, pretty much the same thing he does on the film’s soundtrack. Here, the actor does his best to croon like Chet Baker on “My Funny Valentine.” Damon lacks the vocal cords to really pull the standard off, but it’s still a noteworthy effort. The rest of this soundtrack is a mix of vintage jazz (exceptional cuts by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie), Sinead O’Connor’s mystical “A Lullaby for Cain,” and a handful of bop tunes played by the Guy…

Album:Catch Me If You Can: Music from the Motion Picture

Catch Me If You Can: Music from the Motion Picture

John Williams

Steven Spielberg veered from the futuristic sci-fi flirtations of A.I. and Minority Report with this brisk, stylish period take on the career of teen con-man extraordinaire Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his dogged G-man pursuer/de facto extended family member Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks). As always, the director’s musical collaborator is John Williams, and the scoring legend uses the occasion of their 20th collaboration as a rewarding musical journey back to the days when he was known as Johnny Williams, ambitious young pianist for Henry…

Album:Just Chillin'

Just Chillin'

Norman Brown

The opening track here is aptly titled “The Feeling I Get,” because there is a certain good vibe to Brown’s style and his melodies. Brown’s use of swinging horn sections and the way he pads his lines with reeds, blending in swirls of triplets with his Wes Montgomery/George Benson sound, can’t help but make real smooth-jazz lovers feel good and smile. The expert pen of the tasteful veteran arranger Jerry Hey on the opener (and the following title track) magnifies this unique sound. This album takes a left turn on the four vocal tracks. Chante Moore and Michael…

Album:No Substitutions

No Substitutions: Live in Osaka

Larry Carlton, Steve Lukather

Like 1990s guitar wonder-bands such as Los Lobotomys, Karizma, and L.A. Guitar Workshop, this live club recording from two session-masters is a lesson in controlled thuggery. Carlton has played some of the greatest electric solos ever, gunslinging for everyone from Joni Mitchell and The Crusaders to Steely Dan (“Kid Charlemagne”) and LA Express. Ex-Toto axe-king Lukather made his name stoking the mega-rock flames, but has also plied his pick to recordings by Patti Austin, Herb Alpert, Chet Atkins, and America.

That fusion has fallen on hard times doesn’t…

Album:Flipside

Flipside

Jeff Lorber

Album:Naked Guitar

Naked Guitar

Earl Klugh

Album:Feels Like Home

Feels Like Home

Norah Jones

Norah Jones blew everybody away with her jazzy, country-tinged, Grammy-winning debut CD, Come Away with Me. On this recording, Jones doesn’t mess with her trademark formula. Under Arif Mardin’s cozy coproduction, Jones is supported by her writing partners, her Handsome Band, and some special guests (country legend Dolly Parton, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of the Band, and jazz drummer Brian Blade, to name a few). Jones’s Texas-twanged vocals and her sparse acoustic and electric Wurlitzer piano lines enliven the CD’s 13 tracks, from the light and lively…

Album:Forever, for Always, for Luther

Forever, for Always, for Luther

Various Artists

This star-studded smooth-jazz tribute to Luther Vandross adds credence to the idea that the saxophone is the instrument that comes closest to mimicking the human voice. The passion that these reed players—including Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Mindi Abair, and Dave Koz—pour into their respective tracks makes it seems like they’re speaking right from the heart. Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. does a very funky turn on “Never Too Much,” and two of the most underrated singers in contemporary urban music, Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi, also provide highlights. But the sax…

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