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Rocket Man 

by Alan Sculley & r & Mr. A-Z is a good title for describing the intentions an artist brought to a particular album. For one thing, the "A-Z" suggests a CD that displays a wide range of the artist's talents. It's also a clever play on the last name of the artist in question, Jason Mraz. And considering that Mraz has quickly become known for his humor and agility with language, Mr. A-Z describes one of the main talents that distinguishes Mraz as a lyricist from other singer-songwriters.

His way with words is apparent from the outset of the new CD. In "Life Is Wonderful," Mraz spins out lines like "It takes no time to fall in love / But it takes you years to know what love is / And it takes some fears to make you trust / It takes those tears to make you rust."

Mraz's lyrical abilities have served him well during his young career. There's little doubt that the tongue-twisting lines that populated "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" were a big part of the appeal of that song, which became the breakthrough single from his first CD, Waiting for My Rocket To Come.

A native of Mechanicsville, Va., Mraz began playing music during his college years, developing his skills by busking around New York City. Mraz, though, never broke into the New York City club scene, and he moved west in 1999, first living in San Francisco before settling in San Diego, where a weekly gig at the coffeehouse Java Joe's helped him build a large local following. Word about Mraz began to spread, and he was signed by Elektra Records in 2002.

Mraz has come a long way since then. Waiting for My Rocket To Come was released in the fall of 2002, eventually topping one million in sales and spawning another single, "You & amp; I Both" that went to the top of Billboard magazine's adult top 40 chart.

Mraz toured nearly nonstop through 2003 before getting on a creative roll, fittingly enough, with Life Is Wonderful.

The songs he selected for Mr. A-Z -- going back to that title -- offer notably more variety than those on Rocket. The new CD includes a few songs -- such as "Wordplay," "Did You Get My Message?" and "Clockwatching" -- that recall the breezy pop of "The Remedy." But with tunes like the piano-centric ballads "Plane" and "Mr. Curiousity," Mraz shows a gentler side. Another departure is "Bella Luna," which mixes Mraz's pop style with a Latin rhythm.

Mraz, in particular, points to the softer songs as ones that highlight facets of his writing and personality that didn't show through on Rocket. On his new album, Mr. A-Z shows his range and then blasts off.

Jason Mraz at the Big Easy with Tristan Prettyman and James Blunt on Friday, Nov 11, at 6:30 pm. Tickets: $25. Call 325-SEAT.
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