Yo La Tengo – “Popular Songs”Matador Records-due out Sept. 84.5 / 5 On their 16th album, Hoboken trio Yo La Tengo crack open with strings, layering as complex and listenable as Beck, and their own dreary/dreamy vocals in “Here to Fall,” the opener track. Download this track; it is as exciting and groovy as any you’re bound to find in the vein of Depeche Mode (and there’s strings, to boot). “Popular Songs” is chock-a-block with similarly poppy tracks, and for a moment, the album seems to have more focus and enjoyability than their typical spacious space jams. But even here they supply, as the lastRead More →

McCoy Tyner – “Solo; Live from San Fransicsco”Half Note Records-out today4.5 / 5 With a legendary career like pianist McCoy Tyner’s, there is always the nagging comparison between his latest release and his classic ’60s and ’70s albums. To clarify: yes, he is in his 70s, and yes, this album may not be as classic as “The Real McCoy.” But is it worthwhile? Yes. Here’s why: even in his advanced years, and even with a slightly lacking a bit of touch on his fingers, the solo work here is marvelous, deep, complex, intimate. It is as easy for a person inexperienced in jazz to getRead More →

James Carter – Heaven on Earth (Live)Half Note Records-due out Tomorrow Not to editorialize, but the musicians here are fantastic: John Medeski of Martin, Medeski and Wood, Christian McBride with his own burgeoning solo career, and James Carter, a passionate and wild soloist in a live setting. Then what we have with “Heaven on Earth,” I desperately want to say is a fantastic, must-get album: it displays musicianship, ability, and technical powers well beyond most musicians. But it lacks an ear, and what we get is half a fantastic album, restrained and gorgeous as on the bluesy “Street of Dreams,” or thrashing and wandering asRead More →

Robert Glasper – “Double Booked”Blue Note Records– due out Aug 254 / 5 His third album on Blue Note Records has Glasper doubling his band; the first segment is his acoustic jazz trio, followed by his more electric and hip-hop group the Robert Glasper Experiment. Of the first six tracks, there is little wasted space, as the loping, upbeat strides of “I’m Country (And That’s Okay)” and the dense and melodic treatment of Monk’s “Think of One” proves themselves the highlights of the first half. A couple of phone calls segues Glasper for the second half, which, while not quite as exciting as the first,Read More →