The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (Blue Note): This is the debut recording for a band that is only five years old but is already being considered one of the finest in jazz today. Led by trumpeter Jon Faddis, the 17-piece big band rips through specially commissioned, invigorating new arrangements of jazz and popular standards, including works originally made popular by the likes of Coltrane, Goodman, Dorsey, and Basie. The performances here were captured live in the studio, without any mixing or editing, and have an extraordinarily vibrant feel.
-- Frank Scheck
Fred Eaglesmith - Drive-In Movie (Vertical Records): "When we go driving in our cars/ Racing through the night/ She can drive as fast as me but she stops at all the lights." So sings Fred Eaglesmith in "Wilder Than Her." That in mind, it's no wonder crash-and-burn imagery is all over his new CD. Speeding cars run second only to powerful trains in these vivid portraits. Arriving at folk from the blues side of country, Eaglesmith integrates poetic sensitivity with his daredevil imagery, producing an original vision. The outstanding production includes first-rate slide guitar, mandolin, very tasteful drums, and just enough growling electric guitar to underscore the danger in crashing and burning.
-- Jef Scoville
Common Ground: The Best of Contemporary Irish Music (EMI): Don't break out into the Irish Jig just yet - you won't find any diddly-dee melodies here. This CD brings together contemporary musicians with some of Ireland's best traditional musicians. The melodies range from the somber and pleasant sounds of New Zealanders Neil and Tim Finn of Crowded House to the more upbeat accordion-flavored tune "Cavan Potholes," by Sharon Shannon. You'll also find tunes by Bono and Adam Clayton of U2, the British Kate Bush (who sings in Gaelic), and Sinead O'Connor.
-- Lisa Leigh Parney