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THE MUSIC

The Top 5 Jazz and smooth jazz CDs for the week ending August 4, according to the Gavin Report

1
McGriff's House party

Jimmy McGriff
STYLE

"Soul-jazz"

BEST CUTS

"Red Cadillac Boogaloo," "Neckbones à la Carte," "Blues for Stitt," "McGriff's House Party"

STATURE

At 63, Jimmy McGriff, who has released over 50 albums since 1963, is one of the best-known Hammond B-3 organists in jazz.

OVERVIEW

Recreating the house-party and chitlin'-club atmospheres in which Mr. McGriff's organ combos first thrived, McGriff's House Party (Milestone) mixes standards with groove-oriented originals that provide the all-star sidemen with ample room for improvisation and solos.

2
Shake it up

Boney James & Rick Braun
STYLE

Contemporary jazz

BEST CUTS

"Grazin' in the Grass," "More Than You Know," "Chain Reaction"

STATURE

Between them, Boney James (saxophone) and Rick Braun (trumpet) have released 11 well-received solo albums since 1992.

OVERVIEW

Despite superficial resemblances to the music of Kenny G, Shake It Up (Warner Bros.) owes more to the music of Boney James's biggest influence, the late crossover-jazz specialist Grover Washington Jr., perhaps the most commercially popular saxophonist of all time.

3
moment to moment

Roy Hargrove with Strings
STYLE

Orchestral jazz

BEST CUTS

"You Go to My Head," "Moment to Moment," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Always and Forever"

STATURE

Discovered by Wynton Marsalis in 1987, Roy Hargrove has, over the course of 12 albums, distinguished himself as an up-and-comer on the "hard bop" scene ...

OVERVIEW

... a scene at odds with this album's exquisite calm. From beginning to end, Mr. Hargrove's trumpet and flugelhorn interact with the taut elegance of the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra to create a powerfully understated tension.

4
Somethin' bout love

Brian Culbertson
STYLE

Contemporary jazz

BEST CUTS

"The Rise and Fall (of Loving You)"

STATURE

A lifelong fan of commercial jazz and jazz-influenced pop, Brian Culbertson began playing (piano, trombone) in grade school, composing during junior high, and recording during high school, eventually winning multiple Downbeat student awards.

OVERVIEW

The temptation to hear Mr. Culbertson's music as "easy listening" is by no means alleviated by his occasional hiring of pro forma vocalists to sing warmed-over lyrics.

5
Merry go round

Freddy Cole
STYLE

Nightclub swing and bop

BEST CUTS

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "I Remember You," "You're Sensational"

STATURE

The younger brother and occasional vocal twin of the late Nat "King" Cole, Freddy Cole made his recording debut in 1952 but developed little professional momentum until the 1990s, during which he recorded 11 of his 13 albums and became recognized as one of the best jazz singers in the world.

OVERVIEW

Accompanied primarily by the pianist Cedar Walton, Mr. Cole turns in 11 masterly performances.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Western swing" has been described as a fusion of jazz and country, and nowhere can one hear the jazz influence more clearly than in the 30 songs that Hank Penny recorded for Standard Radio Transcription Services in 1951. Collected on Crazy Rhythm: The Standard Transcriptions (Soundies/Bloodshot), they reveal that, despite his turbulent life (he'd amassed ex-wives and ex-employers aplenty by the time of his death in 1992 at the age of 73), Mr. Penny was far-sighted enough to hire steel guitarists, fiddlers, and pianists capable of making music that would swing for decades. They also reveal that he sang a lot like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and could've been a pop crooner. His favorite role, though, was that of the beleaguered Clinton-esque playboy, a role that afforded him abundant opportunities for self-deprecating gallows humor ("Rabbits Don't Ever Get Married"). As for "Taxes, Taxes"-which goes "Taxes, Taxes, will you always haunt me? / Will I always have to work in vain? / You have caused me many tribulations. / Taxes, taxes, you have taxed my brain"-why didn't anyone sing that at the Republican Convention?