Sonic Reducer

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You can’t swing a dented saxophone without hitting a female jazz singer these days. Most have something to offer, but only a handful bring the complete package to the table, as does Gretchen Parlato on her first CD. Superb vocal control and uncanny musicality allow her to dive to the bottom of a song without rippling its surface. Backed by an empathetic combo throughout, she opens with a stunningly ingenuous rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark” over a Latin rhythm and continues to captivate with tunes by Djavan, Björk, Loueke, Jobim and Shorter. Find it on and iTunes. (MM)

Three The End is Begun (The End is Begun)

You might be hesitant to dip your toe into the oily, black pool of Three’s sophomore release—especially because of its melodramatic title and gaudy cover. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to realize, however, Three is dead set on breaking metal traditions, not upholding them. Save for a few moments when doom and gloom trump virtuosity, the record has as much invested in the spandex era and mall metal as it does in even the most meandering, indulgent forms of prog-rock. That not unheard of (but nevertheless refreshing) mixture is a recipe for the album’s success. (SM)

Lupe Fiasco The Cool (Atlantic)

Crumple the current rapper trends and toss them off the drawing board; Lupe Fiasco has inked a "new" cool. If you cling dearly to your Soulja Boy or Hurricane Chris album, The Cool is not for you. Cleverly, this is a concept album rooted in ideas of a character Lupe created in his previous release, Food & Liquor. The Cool covers a horizon of vibes, but the overall feel is dark and mellow. Rarely do rappers in the mainstream deliver witty and thought-provoking lyricism without sacrificing record sales. Hats off, Lupe. Someone’s finally listening. (JH)

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