Record Report (#7): September 14, 2006

Andrew Hill: Time Lines (Blue Note): Downbeat's Critics Poll acclaimed this the Jazz Album of the Year, but that just shows that the critics are finally catching up with an all-time piano great. When Hill first emerged in the '60s he was the most conservative of avant-gardists, less concerned with breaking rules than with rigorously building on newfound freedom. The new album reunites him with trumpeter Charles Tolliver, a close collaborator and kindred spirit from the '60s, pointing us back to his early classics. Until recently, the only one Blue Note kept in print was Point of Departure, but with the recent reissues of Black Fire, Smoke Stack, Andrew!!!, and Pax (my personal favorite), as well as the discoveries of Dance With Death and Passing Ships, we can all catch up. B+ [jazz]

Maximum Joy: Unlimited (1979-83, Crippled Dick Hot Wax): The Pop Group was a post-punk band far better in theory than in praxis. But they were more famous than the Glaxo Babies, who contributed as many musicians to this group, so the line here is that Maximum Joy, like Pigbag and Rip Rig + Panic, is part of the Pop Group's diaspora. One thing those groups do have in common is a fondness for horns, not just to punch up the sharp angles of their dub-mangled beat, but also to add a jazz vibe. But only Maximum Joy had Janine Rainforth, who played violin and clarinet, and gave them a voice that suggests a more generous comparison, like one of the Slits backed by the Gang of Four. A- [rock]

Augustus Pablo: King David's Melody (1975-82, Shanachie): This is a grabbag of instrumental singles, beguiling riddims with a little dub back in the bonus track section. The title track reminds us how sublimely Pablo's melodica conjured up the essence of Ras Tafari. Arguably a notch below East of the River Nile, King Tubbys Met Rockers Uptown, and In a Fire House, but functionally their match. A- [reggae]

Bobby Pinson: Man Like Me (RCA): Too literate for the small Texas towns he grew up in, but not sharp enough to avoid a hitch in the army, you have to figure that the lessons given in "Don't Ask Me How I Know" were learned the hard way. But his eye for detail and skill at turning a phrase make it naive to think his songs are autobiographical -- growing up is his subject matter, not because he's done it but because he thinks it's important. After nearly a decade hawking songs in Nashville, this is his first album -- self-assured, ambitious, and nervous. Even closes quoting "Jesus Loves Me" -- only other album I can recall to pull that off credibly was James Talley's first, a little-known Western Swing classic called Got No Bread, No Milk, No Money, But We Sure Got a Lot of Love. A- [country]

Rachid Taha: Tékitoi (1998-2004, Wrasse): Algerian-born, French-raised; the burning banlieus of France are filled with the same demographic, estranged from their roots in an old world wrecked by colonialism, too French to go back, too foreign to be welcomed in. It's a dead end for most, but Taha is a rock star of the highest order. He looks like Springsteen on the cover, which is good enough for comparison: he respects his elders -- in his case the founders of Algeria's electro-pop known as raï -- and builds on their classic sound while scaling it up because the singer's charisma deserves no less. A- [world]

Erik Truffaz: Saloua (Blue Note): Trumpet-frosted jazztronica with trans-Mediterranean rap, in Arabic from Tunisian Mounir Troudi and in English from a Swiss named Nya. The choice cut features both with a message: "Israelites and Ishmaelites have to have equal rights and justice." B+ [jazz]