John Pizzarelli teams with the George Shearing Quintet to reveal their unique musical chemistry on The Rare Delight of You, a 15-track gem filled with the ambience of such great composers as Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Warren, and the master himself, George Shearing. Pizzarelli, a master of the Great American Songbook, showcases his musical heirlooms – buoyant, loving vocals and quality guitar skills – alongside Shearing's authentic and full-spirited piano savvy with brilliant insight and freedom of expression without exceeding the boundaries of the original compositions. The results are tender, expressive, jazz renderings that resound with taste and class…
Released not long after Warren Zevon announced that he was suffering from terminal cancer, perhaps some could argue that the single-disc Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon exploits his tragedy by recycling his catalog. The argument holds no water, because not only is it worth celebrating the work of this singer/songwriter, but his catalog was calling out for a collection like this. Although there was the double-disc set I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and a 1986 hits collection, there was no set produced during the CD era that chronicled not just his heyday, but his late-'80s comeback while cherrypicking highlights from the '90s. This does exactly that over the course of a generous, sharply selected 22 tracks. Given the space, it's inevitable that some great songs are missing, but if you're looking for a comprehensive overview, turn to the two-disc set. If you're looking for an introduction or simply a stellar selection of highlights, this suits the bill perfectly.
Supergrass makes music so effervescent and so effortlessly joyous that it's easy to take them and their skills for granted. Surely that was the case around the release of their third album, 1999's eponymous effort, which in its labored fun and weary ballads illustrated just how much hard work it was to craft records as brilliant as I Should Coco and In It for the Money. It suggested the group might have burned too bright and flamed out, but, happily, 2002's Life on Other Planets is a smashing return to form, an album giddy with the sheer pleasure of making music.
Waters' The Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues, combined here onto one CD, were not exactly random collections of tracks – the quality was too consistently high for them to just have been picked out of a hat. Still, it was a pretty arbitrary grouping of items that he recorded between 1947 and 1964. In fact, they hail from throughout his whole stint at Chess, virtually; at the time these albums were first issued, though, all of the material on More Real Folk Blues was from the late '40s and early '50s. They didn't exactly concentrate on his most well-known songs, but they didn't entirely neglect them either, including "Mannish Boy," "Walking Thru the Park," "The Same Thing," "Rollin' & Tumblin' Part One," "She's Alright," and "Honey Bee," amongst somewhat more obscure selections. So ultimately, this disc's usefulness depends on your fussiness as a collector – if it's the only Waters you ever pick up, you'll still have a good idea of his greatness, and if you don't mind getting some tracks you might already have on more avowedly best-of sets, you'll probably hear some stuff you don't already have in your collection.
Comprising three centuries of noted composers' "minor" works, Lubimov's Der Bote (The Messenger) bears out its title with short, introspective pieces that capture thoughts of nostalgia, mourning, and meditation. The first work, C.P.E. Bach's 1787 Fantasy, sounds amazingly avant-garde, full of surprising darts and turns. And the experimental 20th-century composer John Cage's "In a Landscape" is an even bigger surprise. Instead of random keyboard plink-plunks, it's a diaphanous Debussyan tone poem, bound to startle party guests playing Name That Composer… –Dan Davis