Although the music of Norah Jones continues to blend pop, soul, folk, and country with a seasoning of jazz, her third album for Blue Note is the first where she's written (or collaborated on) all the material. Beneath the smooth surface lie darker strains on the album-opening "Wish I Could" (about a boyfriend lost to war), intimations of mortality in "The Sun Doesn't Like You," and the post-election horrors of "My Dear Country." The last seems to channel the inspiration of Brecht/Weill, while the equally bleak "Sinkin' Soon" is set to a jaunty Dixieland rag. Throughout, Jones's vocal intimacy and melodic warmth remain as disarmingly understated as ever. The soulful "Thinking of You," the countryish "Wake Me Up," and the syncopated "Be My Somebody" reflect the captivating style of her previous work. Although too much in the same midtempo mode becomes a dreamy lull, cut by cut, Jones's voice is irresistible.
The Third String Quartet is one of Britten's last works before his untimely death and shows that the composer was still at the height of his powers. The music, inspired by the beauty of Venice, begins tentatively with a delicately wistful opening which contrasts with the passionate outburst that follows it. It is tempting to wonder if Britten had intimations of mortality when he wrote this work.
A nearly brassless little big band and a guitarless R&B group all at the same time, the Microscopic Septet was to the 1980s New York Downtown scene something of what the Art Ensemble of Chicago was to its own home town. Both bands were steeped in and respectful of the jazz tradition, but both deconstructed, recalibrated, juggled and played around with its component parts to create affectionate, often witty new amalgams of the old—and intimations of the future. The two-disc Seven Men In Neckties collects the Micros' immortal, mind-expanding but long unavailable, first two albums—Take The Z Train (Press Records, 1983) and the live Let's Flip! (Osmosis Records, 1985)—along with previously unissued, contemporaneous material.