Year-End Close-Out

We've got 1998's best albums in stock, but they're going fast.

JAZZ
James Carter
In Carterian Fashion
(Atlantic)

Unlike so many young men with horns, Carter actually sounds his age: He doesn't reject tradition, but neither does he seem in thrall to it. Here he uses the Hammond organ (played alternately by Henry Butler and Craig Taborn) as a way to get some R&B nastiness into his oeuvre. The down-and-dirty moments provide just the right contrast to those sequences in which he concentrates on blowing down the house.

Roy Haynes
Praise
(Dreyfus)

Percussionist Roy Haynes has been around for quite a while, and his formidable sticks are the reason. But what makes Praise even more deserving of same is the vamping of Haynes's brass section--tenor man David Sanchez, alto/soprano expert Kenny Garrett and flugelhornist/cornetist Graham Haynes. They don't venture out onto too many limbs, but they make the usual jazz vocabulary sing.

Other Dimensions in Music
Now!
(AUM Fidelity)

At least a modicum of structure is evident in all the tracks here, but trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr., saxophonist Daniel Carter, bassist William Parker and drummer Rashid Bakr don't let it get in their way. Rather, they use it as a launching pad for free-form blasts that explode on contact. "Tears for the Boy Wonder," dedicated to "Winston Marsalis," is a discerningly snide bit of skronk, while "For the Glass Tear/After Evening's Orange" heaps invention upon invention for 33 dynamic minutes.

Salim Washington & RBA
Love in Exile
(Accurate)

Saxophonist/flutist Washington is a deft instrumentalist and a benevolent bandleader who gives his versatile associates more than their share of moments in the sun, and wisely so: Contributions from players such as pianist Joe Bonner and bassist Artie Moore, two of the most iconoclastic figures in recent Denver jazz, add immeasurably to the scope of the disc. When it's working, the music is like a deep pool perfect for cliff-diving. Jump in.

The Gerald Wilson Orchestra
Theme for Monterey
(Mama Foundation)

Wilson, who's been jazzing it up since the Forties, wrote the suite that forms the backbone of this CD as a tribute to the Monterey Jazz Festival on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, and it's a splendid piece--a swinging recapitulation of jazz's orchestral era. His arrangements of "Summertime" and "Anthropology" are equally sweeping: Once a listener takes this musical voyage, he may never want to return.

MISCELLANEOUS
Cornelius
Fantasma
(Matador)

Japan's Cornelius, who borrowed his stage name from one of the cleverest simians in Planet of the Apes, likes to monkey around. Fantasma covers a huge amount of ground, drawing from pop, lounge, hip-hop, soul, DJ culture and more--often in the same song. A restlessly intelligent connoisseur of the wacky and the weird.

Olu Dara
In the World: From Natchez to New York
(Atlantic)

Dara is a jazz musician with a penchant for envelope-pushing, but In the World is no atonal jam. The disc, recorded with a loose ensemble and guests such as his son (the rapper Nas), is a relaxed, down-home stew of blues, jazz, Cajun music and Americana that couldn't be more charming. An outstanding record that will make you hungry for more.

Sex Mob
Din of Inequity
(Columbia/Knitting Factory)

The gaggle of New York jazz scenesters who make up this Mob are dedicated to making the avant-garde fun again. In addition to several febrile compositions from the pen of trumpeter Steven Bernstein, Din of Inequity reinvents Prince's "Sign 'O' the Times" and two James Bond faves ("Goldfinger" and "Live and Let Die") as eccentric instrumental showcases. The album is so winning because it's dead serious about not being dead serious.

Tortoise
TNT
(Thrill Jockey)

John McEntire, Dan Bitney and the other Tortoises have frequently been described as indie rockers playing jazz, but that definition isn't quite right. The songs on TNT have very few improvisational elements: They're composed down to the last eighth note and often have as much to do with classical minimalism as they do with fusion. Such techniques produce music that's genuinely mind-expanding.

Tricky
Angels With Dirty Faces
(Island)

Tricky has had every opportunity to water down his strikingly intense sound for financial gain, but he hasn't succumbed yet. Angels With Dirty Faces is as dark and foreboding as ever, with Tricky turning trip-hop into bad-trip-hop like an avenging angel. He's digging even further into his music these days, and what he's unearthing is consistently compelling.

R&B/SOUL
Faith Evans
Keep the Faith
(Bad Boy)

Plenty of baggage could have been loaded upon this disc: It's the first Evans album since the death of the Notorious B.I.G., who was once her husband, and it was overseen by Sean "Puffy" Combs, the entrepreneur responsible for turning Biggie-mourning into a growth industry. But Puff Daddy's sole cameo (on "All Night Long") is relatively unobtrusive, and the material concerning loss is softened by the presence of creamy love-and-hope songs that Evans caresses with savvy and subtlety. A Faith worth keeping.

Aretha Franklin
A Rose Is Still a Rose
(Arista)

A diva who's earned the designation (unlike several of the women she sang with on a prima-donna-heavy VH1 special), Franklin has spent most of the Eighties and Nineties making the most of second-rate tunes. Rose, by contrast, boasts a handful of noteworthy songs (particularly the Lauryn Hill title cut) and production that puts the Queen of Soul in settings that are simultaneously up-to-date and appropriate to a performer of her status.

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