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Jack Logan
Mood Elevator
(Medium Cool/Restless)

Logan's history (he's a mechanic turned songwriting savant) has so captivated journalists that many of them have neglected to actually consider his music as anything other than a sidebar to a human-interest story. But unlike last year's Bulk, a disc culled from hundreds of homemade demos, Mood Elevator was recorded as a piece, in a fairly professional setting--and a close listen suggests that although Logan is indeed a promising tunesmith, he's still coasting on amateurism. As a lyricist, he prefers fragmentary narratives, and many of them are as evocative as they are simple: Take "Just Babies," in which an alcoholic shows off photos of the daughters he has practically nothing to do with anymore, and "Ladies and Gentlemen," a snapshot that captures the emptiness of politics without ever overtly addressing the issue. But "Suicide Doors," filled with lukewarm Springsteen-isms, exemplifies his hit-or-miss track record. What's worse, his fellow musicians, known as the Liquor Cabinet, don't adequately juice the numbers, in large part because they haven't found a distinctive style: They sound like a typical bar band in Anytown, U.S.A. That they run through Logan's Stonesy melodies here in a perfunctory manner hardly different from their approach on Bulk implies that they can't do any better. Songs like "Estranged" and "Neon Tombstone" are still enjoyable in a minor way, but even they demonstrate that Logan isn't going to truly deserve the plaudits that have come his way until he makes some tougher choices.--Michael Roberts

Rachel's
Music for Egon Schiele
(Quarterstick)

"One has to realize what restraint it needs to express oneself with such brevity. Every glance can be expanded into a poem, every sigh into a novelE" This line, written by Arnold Schoenberg as an introduction to a string quartet by Anton Webern, is scrawled across the innermost envelope of this recording. The quote clarifies the connection between pianist Rachel Grimes's lean compositions and the paintings of Egon Schiele, an Austrian contemporary of Gustav Klimt who serves as Grimes's muse for this project. Schiele's personal history proved tragic: He was imprisoned after being falsely accused of seducing a minor (the charge was later changed to "disseminating pornographic art" to children); he later died during an influenza epidemic at age 28, shortly after his work was enthusiastically received at the Vienna Secession show of 1918. The pieces on Music, written by Grimes to accompany Egon Schiele, a theatrical dance production by Stephan Mazurek, function together as separate acts within a larger production--an effect echoed by the respective instruments, which emerge from the ensemble to perform mournful and meditative solos. Likewise, the austerity and pained beauty that characterize this exquisite chamber music create a mood that's perfectly in tune with the reproductions of Schiele's paintings that Grimes chose for the CD's booklet. In one such work ("Autumn Trees"), leaves cling to three spare, staked saplings set against a backdrop of banking rain clouds--an image that calls to mind Grimes movements in which piano, viola and cello intertwine like bare branches and conjure the sound of falling leaves. To amplify the effect, listen to the disc while reading Arrogance, Joanna Scott's fictionally enhanced bio-graphy of Schiele--preferably on a muddy spring morning.--Amy Kiser

David S. Ware Quartet
DAO
(Homestead)

Ware lets skronk neophytes know he's not going to hold their hands on DAO's very first cut, "Interdao," which begins with nearly two minutes of Ware's unaccompanied saxophone wailing. And while the lines he plays during this passage occasionally exhibit a lyrical quality, the naked passion he pours through his horn isn't always delivered in tasty, easily digestible ear-nuggets. His tone can be ugly, brash, jarring. In other words, he proudly displays the very sonic characteristics that more timid instrumentalists go out of their way to camouflage. It's a bold strategy, and undeniably foolhardy from a commercial standpoint given the staid nature of jazz radio, but it often leads to vibrant moments that are as genuinely alternative as anything else released by Homestead, an imprint that concentrates on postpunk discs. Ware's accompanists--pianist Matthew Shipp, drummer Whit Dickey and bassist William Parker--provide a sympathetic climate against which Ware storms; even on "Tao Above Sky," which initially seems to be a fairly sedate ballad, Ware eventually erupts into high-pitched squeals that pierce through the bass-heavy playing of his fellows. The Taoist sensibility at the heart of creations like this one is not made explicit, and that's just as well--the spirituality inherent in Ware's approach transcends specific dogma. At its base, DAO is the sound of a man embracing everything that life has sent his way, be it good, bad or indifferent. And that's the beauty of it.--Roberts

 
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