Don Sebesky is best known as house arranger for many of producer Creed Taylor's Verve, A&M, and CTI productions; the man whose orchestral backgrounds helped make artists like Wes Montgomery, Paul Desmond, Freddie Hubbard, and George Benson acceptable to audiences outside of jazz. He has taken critical heat for this, but Sebesky's arrangements have usually been among the classiest in his field, reflecting a solid knowledge of the orchestra, drawing variously from big band jazz, rock, ethnic music, classical music of all eras, and even the avant-garde for ideas. He once cited Bartok as his favorite composer, but one also hears lots of Stravinsky in his work. This album is a nice mix of big-band standards and a few, not so well-known gems in beautiful, uplifting original arrangements provided by Sebesky.
The inside booklet for Norwegian pianist and composer Ketil Bjørnstad's Seafarer's Song begins with a small statement by the Spanish author Juan Jose Millas about the plight of the truly shipwrecked, the ruined in our postmodern times, where messages of distress don't come in bottles, but inside the real human bodies of refugees. It speaks volumes about the music included here. Bjørnstad has given us yet another album of the water to be sure, something he has done since the inception of his solo career for ECM, but he has done so in a completely different way. There is no jazz on the Seafarer's Song, and yes; that's a plus. Utilizing his long-standing band which includes trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, guitarist Eivind Aarset, drummer Per Lindvall, bassist Bjorn Kjellemyr, and cellist Svante Henryson, Bjørnstad ups the ante by employing the brilliant if unconventional vocalist Kristin Asbjornsen…
Like almost every other live release of the new millennium, Between the Line: Sara Bareilles Live at Fillmore is a multi-format package appearing as a CD/DVD set and a Blu_Ray release, all containing the same set. It's a crisp, clean production designed for home theater systems, but it also works very well as a standalone live album, since its lean, lively arrangements – often featuring extended piano-and-voice segments, with "Fairytale" being performed entirely solo by Bareilles – wind up showcasing the melodic craft behind her songs.
The daughter of the popular late R&B singer Donny, husky voiced Lalah Hathaway is the perfect foil for Joe Sample's compelling notion that The Song Lives On. Finding a happy medium between the graceful straight-ahead jazz trio vibe of his Invitation album and the plucky pop energy of Spellbound, Sample provides Hathaway on seven of the 11 tunes with a showcase for her sultry approach.His and Bill Shnee's production approach is generally sparse, not much more than piano and bass, enhanced on occasion by Fender Rhodes and the occasional smoky input of Kirk Whalum. Sample doesn't seem to mind playing second fiddle most of the time, his trademark mix of dark chords and dancing, optimistic improvisations forming harmony lines behind her; often, though, his itchiness to step higher into the mix comes clear and he breaks into extended upbeat improvisations. On a cover of his Crusaders hit "Street Life," Hathaway turns the title into a mantra and Sample echoes her sentiments with sharp, percussive reiterations of the song's main melody. Then Hathaway stops and Michael Thompson steps in with some edgy electric guitar lines.