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Music Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Michelle Goldberg (MG) and Chris Knight (CK)

Tiger Okoshi
Color of Soil

Jazz may have been born in America, but on this album, it gets a multiethnic flavoring that is simply intoxicating. With help from Kenny Barron on piano, Japanese trumpeter Tiger Okoshi draws on the expansiveness and liberation of free jazz inside the metered realms of Latin and Afro-Cuban. Okoshi goes on to let his warm, round tone ring through the blues ballad "Tone of Your Voice," written "for the memories of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe, Japan." But watch out--he's not afraid to play. "A Night in Tunisia" sounds like everybody else's until Tiger gets a hold of the changes, unleashing his technical virtuosity. Hank Roberts' cello softens most tracks without becoming sentimental. Barron's exacting, driving solos complement the horn player without distracting from the mellow, aromatic nature of this breakthrough album. (CK)

Various Artists
Trance Planet

One of the most amazing things about the Trance Planet box set is that it seems cohesive even as it bounces all over the world and careens along the continuum between traditional and experimental music. These four CDs feature songs from around the globe--disc three, for instance, starts with the Parisian Algerian Rachid Taha, who is followed by a Belorussian opera singer and a Malian diva. The music here also runs the technological gamut--some songs are pure folk renditions, some cross-cultural electronic hybrids. Stars like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan are represented, as well as lesser-known legends like drummer Zakir Hussain. Despite the mind-blowing diversity of the collection, though, Trance Planet is united by a despairing, mournful passion. Even as the multiplicity of languages and instruments challenge and educate the listener, the music is consistently soothing and reflective, as if the producers had set out to compile all the saddest music in the world. (MG)


Wade Randolph Hampton, the man behind W, says that Redheadedstepchild was influenced by his childhood in New Orleans and Texas, and you can hear the lush, marshy, neon-tinted warmth of Louisiana nights on much of this luminous record. Not that there's anything honky-tonk about it, but it's futuristic without ever being cold or sharp. Soothing and jazzy, this is ambient music with a rich helping of funk stirred in. Much of its organic feel comes from Broun Fellinis saxophonist Black Edgar Kenyatta and drummer Professor Borris Karnaz, who lend soul and weight to the layers of floaty, hypnotically delicate sounds that make up most of the album. Hampton runs the club night La Belle Époque at The Top and the record store Faster Bamboo, and his deep musical knowledge pervades each of these exquisitely constructed tracks. (MG)

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From the December 21, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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