Music Review: The Jazz Passengers - Reunited
Saxophonist Roy Nathanson and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes founded The Jazz Passengers in 1987. In 1988, New York Times columnist Jon Pareles said (in a most favorable tone) that their music represented “unpredictable forms and modernist dissonances.” He went on to describe them as a “postmodern jazz band” who took “pleasure in odd juxtapositions.” These comments and other similar ones were personified on their first five albums.
Now after a twelve year hiatus, they have released Reunited. Yes, THAT “Reunited”, the very same one that was such a big hit for Peaches and Herb. The title song is also a double entendre marking the return of their original guitarist, Marc Ribot, and of course the reuniting of the group.
Curtis Fowlkes sings the “Peaches” part in the title track and so becomes the seventh “Peaches” after the six women who sang that role over the years with Herb. It’s a tongue-in-cheek and fun cover of the 1979 chart topper.
Most of the tracks proved to display a significant amount of discordance and ersatz harmony and were unappealing. Elvis Costello is the lead singer on track one, “Wind Walked By”, a Nathanson composition. Tracks six and seven were the most accessible , “Tell Me” (a sensitive ballad) and “Spanish Harlem”. For these two tracks, the melodies were true and the harmonies intact. The musical contributions of sax, trombone, and vibes were noticeable and welcomed. “Spanish Harlem” includes both intro and outro dialogues apparently meant to add authenticity which I found distracting. Susi Hyldgaard is the lead female vocalist and not only saves the day for this track, but is also the highlight of the album.
Deborah Harry, a frequent collaborator with The Jazz Passengers appears on two bonus tracks. “Think of Me” (by Brad Jones and David Cale) opens with a distorted mash-up of noise that thankfully stops abruptly. Harry then is free to offer a smooth rendition with a melodic and harmonious musical backdrop. The album concludes with a cover of Harry’s hit, “One Way or Another” which I could have done without. For my taste, they saved the best for next to last. Release date is October 12, 2010.