AN YOUNGE, Brian Jackson JID008
(Jazz Is Dead): HHHH4k collaboration with Gil Scott-Heron’s longtime bandleader/keyboardist/arranger makes a worthy, generation-spanning addition to Shaheed Muhammad and Younge’s JID series. Drummer Malachi Morehead grounds their instrumental explorations, as Muhammad and Younge’s bass, clarinet, guitar and synthesizer respond to the meditative lines Jackson sets out primarily with alto flute and Fender Rhodes piano. They take some deep journeys, most notably with the Scott-Heron-evoking “Bain de Minuit,” inspired by Jackson’s wife; “Nancy Wilson,” a bittersweet tribute to the late, great jazz/R&B chanteuse; “Baba Ibeji” (an absorbing showcase for Morehead’s snare work); and “Ethiopian Sunshower,” a joyous merging of Afrofunk and jazz.
CORAL MOONS, Fieldcrest (Space Krafts): 3½
The Boston rockers’ debut album, clocking in at barely 36 minutes, manages to construct an alluring sonic world of hopes and passions. Working with Lake Street Dive/Steel Wheels producer Sam Kassirer, their dynamic arrangements are stitched with acoustic and electric guitars, brassy horn buttons, silky synths and handclaps, and centered by lead singer Carly Kraft’s quicksilver contralto, which ranges confidently from affirmative rocker “I Feel Alive” through the infectious, high-spirited grooves of “Winnebago” and time-shifting jazz cadences of “Under Control.” RIYL Lake Street Dive, Diane Birch.
CRUZADOS, She’s Automatic (indie): 3½
Cruzados bassist/co-founder Tony Marsico — the only member of the L.A. rockers’ original ’80s lineup — teams with Little Caesar’s frontman (Ron Young), guitarists (Mark Tremalgia, Loren Molinare) and sometime drummer (Rob Klonel) for this viscerally satisfying return. Young’s vocals are deeper and edgier than Tito Larriva’s, magnifying the grittiness of Marsico’s songs, and appearances by Dave Alvin, John Doe, Jimmy Z, and Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and David Hidalgo make it a roots-romping party. Highlights: “Long Black Car,” the stomping “Son of the Blues,” “Wing and a Prayer,” “On the Tilt a Whirl,” “Across This Ghost Town.” Release show Aug. 20 at Redwood Bar in Downtown LA. cruzadosband.com
EXPLORER TAPES, Explorer Tapes
(Omnivore/Warner Records): 3
Shelved by a game of corporate musical chairs, this buoyant, Mike Elizondo-produced pop set is finally receiving its six-years-overdue debut. Attentive listeners may recognize “Texas Time,” co-written by Explorer Tapes keyboardist Drew Erickson and guitarist Max Townsley with Steve Lindsey and Dillon O’Brian, which Keith Urban covered for his “Graffiti U.” The songcraft and handsome production are catchy, bright and smooth — sometimes too smooth (the disco-slick “Change Looks Good on You”). Hopeful tunes such as “Everybody’s Crazy,” “Kids These Days” and “Radio” should appeal to pop fans with a taste for melodic hooks.