Short Cuts

The disc kicks off with "Ed' Oxum," a Calypso-flavored Brazilian tune. Haque's fluid classical guitar, Jackson's fluttering tone, and the Caribbean-style percussion from Drummond (aided by Cyro Baptista) create a song that could lead a daiquiri-drenched conga line. But the mood swings the other way on the next track, Tony Williams' free-jazz composition "Emergency." Drummond leads the song with a two-minute drum solo that sounds more like an exercise than a musical statement, and the rest of the tune sputters aimlessly.

On the other hand, "Good People," a Jackson original, makes an effective argument for the sax player dropping covers from his repertoire altogether. It's the CD's highlight, building a Seventies funk groove during which Reid and Haque lay down blistering solos, and Medeski pulverizes his organ keys.

The ballad "Diane" creates a late-night, last-dance-of-the-evening vibe with Jackson's breathy, precise phrasing and the album's only bass solo. But then comes another dud: "Flor de Canela," a Carlos Santana tune that disintegrates into free-jazz meandering and ends up sounding like a nine-minute song introduction.

The bebop-flavored "Naaman" ends the CD on an up note, showing Jackson at his brightest. But by then many will have been turned off. Good People shows that Jackson is an accomplished melodist and a potentially great songwriter. Yet he needs to focus and find a sound that will allow him and his accomplished sidemen to celebrate a variety of musical styles with consistency and range. If Jackson can do that, he might well become a bandleader worthy of his legendary mentor.

-- Larry Getlen

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