Alibi V.17 No.14 • April 3-9, 2008 

Sonic Reducer

Loren Stillman Blind Date (Pirouet Records)

What you notice right away is alto saxophonist Loren Stillman’s sound—silky, confidential, at times ethereal, with a latent keening that suggests a soprano sax—and his adept control of minute sonic variations to shape a line and communicate the subtlest emotional content. On top of that, he has ideas aplenty, as he explores eight original, sensitive and sturdy compositions. Although the rhythm section on Blind Date includes some of the best players on the scene today— Gary Versace (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums)—the connection between them and Stillman seems tenuous at times. Still, the sound and writing beguile. (MM)

Thomas Function Celebration (Alive Naturalsound)

Thomas Function's Celebration makes me think of what would happen if a church sermon in a Southern Baptist Church was hijacked by a group of smart-mouthed hipsters. The heavy reliance on organ is appreciated, as is the always forceful and deceptively prominent backbeat. But what really makes this record a pleasurable acquaintance is its Southern sensibilities that tie a bow around über-chic guitar melodies and charmingly whiny vocals. These Alabama boys aren't ashamed of their roots, but they've also been paying attention to the tunes coming out of the country's coasts. (SM)

Janet Jackson Discipline (Island)

I like Janet Jackson. Not even in an ironic way. But I don't like feeling pegged by whatever committee sat down to identify the qualities that make Janet "Janet," and what new spin they needed to keep her next release current. Of course there's vocoder on the hit single "Feedback" (as there is on everything lately), and there are “interludes" in which Jackson interacts with a speaking computer or robot or something. Cocooned in technology and weird effects, Jackson's signature thickly layered vocals ride atop some neat, minimalist production ideas. Still, a good album is not the same thing as a smart product. (MD)

(MM) Mel Minter, (SM) Simon McCormack, (MD) Marisa Demarco