The Music of “Nashville,” Season 1, Volume 1
One thing you can say for sure about Nashville, the prime-time soap opera on ABC: It gets the music right. As you can hear on this disc, even with the show’s actors doing all the singing, the results are as good as anything the city’s Music Row has to offer.
Perhaps that’s not surprising, because (the sometimes overrated) T Bone Burnett did the bulk of the producing, along with the always-estimable Buddy Miller. They have a terrific collection of songs to work with, and they manage to strike a balance between commercial accessibility and rootsy character.
Love Like Mine and Telescope, sung by Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere’s character), exude a spitfire attitude that would fit right in on a Miranda Lambert album. Several other numbers play up country’s duet tradition, as with Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) and Deacon Clayborne (Charles Esten) on No One Will Ever Love You, and Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) on If I Didn’t Know Better and When the Right One Comes Along. And Britton and Panettiere’s rousing, rocked-up Wrong Song is every bit the show-stopper that it was in the show.
James Grippando continues to deliver great legal suspense with his latest thriller, Blood Money. His hero, Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck, has appeared in previous novels, but this case becomes his most personal.
According to the general public and the media, Swyteck’s client Sydney Bennett is guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. Everyone but the court has already convicted her, and when the verdict is not guilty, hysteria ensues. Swyteck receives death threats and is accused of taking blood money, but his main concern involves getting his client out of prison safely. On the night of Bennett’s release, a woman who looks like her is assaulted and ends up in a coma. The media blames Swyteck, but the young woman’s parents go to Swyteck for help.
The mystery itself is a bit obvious, but Grippando’s examination of corporate media and the power of the court of public opinion elevate Blood Money. Swyteck has to work within the law to save his client, while dodging blows from a zealous TV reporter and countering the spreading lies in media reports. Every step he takes is scrutinized and examined in the world of instant news. Swyteck’s career and his client’s life hang in the balance.
The courtroom antics are fun and will remind readers of the best of Perry Mason. Grippando has been at the top of the legal-thriller ladder for some time, and Blood Money will enhance his reputation.
— Jeff Ayers
Joe Lovano and Us Five
Most jazz musicians are flexible. At 60, Joe Lovano is moving toward universality.
The Cleveland native’s tenor saxophone sound rolls and smears and smokes, rhythmic unto itself; it can fit in or accommodate. His starting place is bebop’s complex language, but he seems to be listening to something underneath language and style. He’s good with a particular rhythm, or a structure, or a set of changes, but he doesn’t need any of it. He’s developed a band for that temperament, Us Five, where anything can happen, sort of.
Lovano’s third album with Us Five, Cross Culture, with drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III, pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding and guitarist Lionel Loueke in an intermittent, undefined role, can sometimes sound like a jam session based on scraps. In fact most of these pieces are more composed than they seem; several have appeared in different arrangements on earlier Lovano records. But overall the feel is organic and basic, intense and casual.
There’s a gold-star version of one of jazz’s most elegant ballad standards, Billy Strayhorn’s Star Crossed Lovers, with rustling free rhythm at the beginning and end and easy swing in the middle. Lovano’s performance is a knockout. Both he and Weidman play with care and attention to the song’s changes; Spalding plays a melodic, songlike solo.
But right after that comes a runic, short-melody piece called Journey Within, and then Drum Chant, a raw and generous jam session that at a little over four minutes feels too long. Cross Culture covers the bases, showing you all it can do. It’s a record with very little anxiety.
Sometimes too little. Even Lovano’s scrappiest pieces remain essentially placid; his coolness is a rare force, but how much of it can you take before your attention slips? Lovano is taking a step back from the material of jazz and looking at its motivating forces; implicitly, he’s asking why we make it. As long as the question lingers in your head, the album works.
— Ben Ratliff
New York Times