JONI MITCHELL COVERED; ART PEPPER REDISCOVERED
May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Here are some good new jazz, rock, and world-music records that reflect the positive side of contemporary global urban culture in a myriad of ways. That's just a fancy way of saying that they all swing in their way.
A TRIBUTE TO JONI MITCHELL (Nonesuch): Joni Mitchell's songs are so confessional, and her renditions of them so personal, that they would seem to be pretty much un-coverable. But they are also universal and poetic, and they open up to the interpretations of others with surprising grace.
When Prince sings, in ``A Case of You,'' about drawing a map of Canada, ``with your face sketched on it twice,'' he also sounds as though he is ``prepared to bleed.'' From Bjork's version of ``The Boho Dance'' -- ``A camera pans the cocktail hour/ Behind a blind of potted palms/ And finds a lady in a Paris dress/With runs in her nylons'' -- you suspect that she knows about being behind a blind.
Singing ``Dreamland,'' backed by a cuica, a shaker, a cowbell, a side drum, and handclaps, Caetano Veloso is dreaming of Brazil from the first line -- ``It's a long way from Canada.'' Elvis Costello's version of ``Edith and the Kingpin'' -- ``Small town, big man, fresh lipstick glistening'' -- convinces you that he believes that he is a ``victim of typewriters.'' Translating ``Don't Interrupt The Sorrow'' to solo piano, Brad Mehldau manages to make his instrument sound as though it has ``a head full of quandary/And a mighty, mighty thirst.''
ART PEPPER, ``Unreleased Art, Vol. 1'' (APMC/2CDs): This is Art Pepper playing live in Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan, in November 1981, a year before his death. It is interesting how Pepper and Stan Getz, white saxophonists with a lot in common, got fresher and more honest rather than coasting or decaying as they got older. They were two of jazz's most infamous junkies -- Pepper spent stretches of his adult life in prison, his autobiography ``Straight Life'' was a best-seller -- and both of them had warm franchise sounds.
Here Pepper is accompanied by a killer rhythm section led by the excellent pianist George Cables. As always, he wears his emotions on his sleeve. He was big in Japan and the audience is enthusiastic to the point of rowdy. Playing ``Besame Mucho,'' the gorgeous Gordon Jenkins song ``Goodbye,'' and Thelonious Monk's ``Rhythm-A-Ning,'' his improvising is masterful, mature and very moving.
ANGELIQUE KIDJO, ``Djin Djin'' (Razor & Tie/EMI): Co- produced by Starbucks Entertainment, ``Djin Djin'' starts in Kidjo's native village in Benin, and goes on to tour the world in many languages, including Ravel's ``Bolero,'' here called ``Lonlon,'' in French, and the Rolling Stones' ``Gimme Shelter'' (with Joss Stone) in English. Kidjo decided a long time ago not to sing anything just to have a hit: She did not want to be stuck with hits she hated.
Her voice is original, honest, and big-time in the area of ``world-music,'' primarily African in this case. Guest artists such as Peter Gabriel, Branford Marsalis, Alicia Keys, Ziggy Marley, and Carlos Santana are supported by exceptional instrumentalists including the kora master Mamadou Diabete, and Lionel Loueke, a guitarist also from Benin, who, like Kidjo, now lives in Brooklyn.
JACKY TERRASSON, ``Mirror'' (Blue Note): The pianist Terrasson won the Thelonious Monk competition in 1993. This is his first solo album. He has the rare ability to make a piano self-sufficient. His version of ``Just a Gigolo'' pays tribute to Monk with sensitivity and humor, and without being slavish about it. He deconstructs ``Caravan'' (in 7/4 time), Carole King's ``You've Got a Friend,'' and the anthem ``America the Beautiful,'' going to pianissimo from fortissimo and back with effortless musicality, and not a boring measure.
ANAT COHEN, ``Poetica'' (Anzic Records): Cohen is a young Israeli reed-woman living in New York, and she is being touted as the next big clarinet star -- something sorely lacking since Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. She has a big fat tone, a free and easy technique, extraordinary intonation, and a lot of understated emotion.
``Poetica'' is understated to a fault, at times wandering perilously close to the notoriously undefined border of ``new age'' music, which, of course, will not hurt sales. It is, however, superb music in any category. Shuffled between her own material, Cohen plays Japanese, French, Brazilian, and Israeli songs, and John Coltrane's ``Lonnie's Lament.'' Four tracks include a tasteful string quartet.