Album reviews for July 17, 2014

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Gazette wire services
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jason Mraz, “YES!”

On his fifth studio album, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz returns to familiar lyrical territory, exploring the highs and lows of love in his bright, folk-pop style.

This time, though, the sound is both richer and more stripped down—an acoustic ride enriched by the vocals, strings and percussion of his partners on the album, the all-female quartet Raining Jane. Their layered harmonies lend an ethereal vibe throughout and an almost gospel quality to the album's best song, the closing ode to love, “Shine.”

Mraz co-wrote every song on “YES!” with the indie group from Los Angeles, except for the worthy resurrection of the heartbreaking Boyz II Men classic, “It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”

“YES!” tells a love story, from the initial intoxication to the inevitable goodbye. Every moment of an ordinary day is magic in “Hello, You Beautiful Thing.”

After heartbreak, he goes “Back to the Earth,” an enthusiastic sing-along about nature's solace.

Like Mraz's previous albums, “YES!” is cheerfully optimistic, as evidenced by the single “Love Someone.” But the real standouts are the introspective tracks: “You Can Rely on Me” and the downbeat “A World With You.”

—Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden, “Last Dance”

There's a sense of both joy and sadness to “Last Dance,” which is the first album in pianist Keith Jarrett's illustrious nearly 50-year career to hit No. 1 on Billboard's traditional jazz chart.

“Last Dance” is drawn from the same informal 2007 sessions at Jarrett's home studio that reunited the pianist with bassist Charlie Haden for the first time in more than three decades and yielded the Grammy-nominated 2010 CD, “Jasmine.”

The joy comes from hearing these two jazz masters in a relaxed, intimate setting, complementing, supporting and listening to each other without wasting any notes.

The sadness comes from the realization that the album is this masterful duet's “last dance” together. Shortly after the release of “Jasmine,” Haden suffered an onset of post-polio syndrome, which led to a hiatus from touring and recording; he died Friday. That gives an added poignancy to the three closing tracks, “Where Can I Go Without You,” “Every time We Say Goodbye” and “Goodbye.”

—Charles J. Gans, Associated Press

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