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CD Reviews 

Irvin Mayfield and Gordon Parks
Half Past Autumn Suite
(Basin Street Records)

On his new CD, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield pays homage to legendary photographer, poet and filmmaker Gordon Parks. The work was commissioned by the New Orleans Museum of Art (which hosted a Parks retrospective in 2000) as a tribute to Parks, whose landscape and nature photographs, awash with translucent hues and abstruse angles, also appear in the liner notes. Mayfield based his compositions on Parks' photos, and the mood is set for the listener, as the septet, featuring trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, saxophonist Marcus Strickland and others provide compassionate support.

Mayfield possesses the swagger and self-assurance of a seasoned pro throughout these works consisting of layered arrangements, melodic choruses and odd-metered grooves. Here, the band melds the tried-and-true with a modern outlook. On the piece "Jazz Poetry #2," Mayfield's two-note extended lines translate into a memorable ballad. But Mayfield is equally adept at intertwining subtle elegance with raw firepower, evidenced on the knock-down funk-blues piece, "Jazz Poetry #1."

Mayfield goes toe-to-toe with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis for an after-hours blues titled "Blue Dawn," while Parks surfaces as a capable pianist on the contemplative "Wind Song." And while not all of these Mayfield originals impart an enduring impression, the trumpeter's artistic growth continues to impress. -- Glenn Astarita

Pat McLaughlin
Next 5 Miles

(Cream-Style Records)

Former Tiny Town singer/songwriter/guitarist and The Howlin' Wolf regular Pat McLaughlin vanished from local circles after Tiny Town's demise. He's working the Tennessee clubs that are his bread and butter, and it's New Orleans' loss. McLaughlin's new CD, Next 5 Miles, continues his streak of fine albums filled with melodic guitar-based roots rock, cliché-free songwriting and quirky rhythms.

Those rhythms are one of McLaughlin's trademarks; his choppy, percussive rhythm guitar work always stutter-steps like a wobbly stiltwalker. (Think John Hiatt's "Memphis in the Meantime.") On tracks like "Ain't Got No Funky Chicken" and "Hey Yeah," McLaughlin's equally memorable slippery vocal phrasing helps drive the songs. The approach is perfect for the subtle delivery and wry observations of "Just Getting By" and "Mornin Train," two co-writes with John Prine.

The album's only disappointment is its lack of ballads; there are no heart-stopping love songs like Unglued's "Try the Love" or Uncle Pat's "Hey Now Now." The closest he comes is "Little Good Girl," a mellow country-flavored song co-written with former subdudes/Tiny Town bassist Johnny Allen. Speaking of the 'dudes, the catchy "Sugarfied" evokes the band's "Honey Pie," and while it isn't a ballad, its catchy chorus and sentiment is sweet nonetheless. As there's no telling when McLaughlin will hit the Crescent City again, Next 5 Miles is the perfect antidote for McLaughlin aficionados who miss him around these parts -- or any fan of gutsy country- and blues-flavored American rock 'n' roll. Available from -- Scott Jordan

Luciana Souza
North and South

(Sunnyside Records)

In this age of Jane Monheit, Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall, can a jazz chanteuse who isn't a sex goddess get any attention? Luciana Souza, neither homely nor a knockout, seems to be doing so. The selling point here is her pedigree: her father was a prominent singer and songwriter in the Jobim circle of Brazilian bossa-nova, and she's lived the last few years in America performing and recording with New York's premier jazz musicians.

Souza doesn't have an extraordinary vocal range, or an attention-grabbing timbre. Her strengths are an ability to sing equally well in Portugese and English, her composing (there are two Joni Mitchell-esque originals here), her eclecticism (she is also involved in various classical music projects) and a very laid-back rhythmic sense which combines the best of Brazilian and American jazz.

Backed by a piano trio, (with two tracks by the fabulous pianist Fred Hersch) this disc is for the most part anything but high-energy jazz; instead cuts like "When Your Lover Has Gone" and the most melancholic version of "All of Me" ever waxed are drenched in what Brazilians call "saudade," roughly translatable as sadness or longing. North and South is an exquisite, thoughtful hybrid. -- Tom McDermott

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