by TED S. McGREGOR JR AND MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & WILCO
Sky Blue Sky
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he cool thing about Wilco is that no two records are alike; Jeff Tweedy and the boys are adding new listeners with each CD. Sky Blue Sky is their fastest-seller yet, though it's not their best (try Mermaid Avenue or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). Although most songs clock in under five minutes, you might think Wilco is becoming a jam band. Most tracks start out mellow but end up somewhere else -- usually in the land of edgy guitar riffs. (New guitarist Nels Cline, by the way, is awesome.)
But this is no mini-Phish -- Sky Blue Sky is more of a tribute to early-1970s California rock. (Think Neil Young and Crazy Horse.) It's a throwback all the way -- even recorded on two-inch tape, meaning songs were cut live in one take. And for a band that has been through fights with record labels, lineup changes and rehab, maybe something a little laid-back was the change they needed.
-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.
DOWNLOAD: "Side With the Seeds"
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he first-call saxophonist of the '90s, now 37, rebounds from his electric groove-based Elastic albums by playing with three different bass-drum combinations while mixing in four of his own compositions among some standards. Back East acknowledges the 50th anniversary of Sonny Rollins' Way Out West by contrasting cowboy tunes ("I'm an Old Cowhand") with haunting compositions from outside the Western tradition. For example, Redman's tenor creates a quirky, tambourine-accented beat in "Indonesia"; in the Middle Eastern call to prayer of "Zarafah," his soprano wails atop a minaret. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Ali Jackson appear on six of the 11 tracks, joining the interplay of tenors while Redman is trading fours with his father Dewey on John Coltrane's "India" (recorded less than four months before Dewey died last September). Redman plays Seattle's Jazz Alley through June 10 with Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums); on "Wagon Wheels," they merge East/West opposites.