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by Joel Smith and Michael Bowen


The Books


Lost and Safe FOUR STARS


A British man recites Lewis Carroll's poem, "Jabberwocky" while a cello moans and strange percussion instruments rattle frenetically. A journalist reports live as Salvador Dali splashes paint on a huge canvas in Venice; time is kept on drums and what sounds like kalimba. A man speaks while a file cabinet smashes shut repeatedly, echoing the tone and rhythm of his voice. Again the cello buzzes.


Doubtful you've heard anything quite like the Books. The duo, made up of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong, pieces together found sounds -- old snippets of audio they dig up in flea markets and thrift stores -- and weaves in percussion, cello, banjo, guitar, to create weird, ambient quilts of sound and something like poetry. Nothing you would call a "song." There's little melody here at all, and the structure of the piece is apt to turn on a dime. As such, it's not party music, nor is it even background music. It's headphones music -- in wild, swirling stereo, audio bouncing from side to side and appearing from out of nowhere. It's aural chaos, occasionally meaningful and somehow totally arresting. --JOEL SMITH





Ravi Coltrane


in flux THREE STARS


When John Coltrane suddenly died of liver cancer in 1967, his son Ravi was only two years old. Now the toddler has lived as long as his father did -- and at age 40, he's braving the challenge of, yes, leading a quartet while playing tenor and soprano sax.


In four albums since his 1998 debut, Ravi Coltrane has paid his respects by covering compositions by the likes of Monk, Henderson, Silver and Tyner. The highlight of in flux (Savoy Jazz) is the cover of Wayne Shorter's "United" -- though Coltrane is creating his own material, too, and rattling off notes like the master his father was.


Coltrane's "Coincide" stands as a companion piece to "United," with the parallel titles, the same beeping sax riff at the outset and a sax solo building from contemplative to lyrical.


Five of the 12 tracks, however, feel like undeveloped jam-session fragments -- a problem which plagues even two of the longer compositions, "Dear Alice" and "Angular Rhythms."


Still, Ravi Coltrane's quartet represents high-quality post-bop, experimental and yet melodic. -- Michael Bowen





Publication date: 06/02/05
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