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New releases from Esperanza Spalding, Matthew Bourne, and Bill Pritchard 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Esperanza Spalding
  • Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

Emily's D+Evolution

Concord

File next to: Mahavishnu Orchestra, Janelle Monae

Only the occasional jazz artist like Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock can make the foray into pop-funk while keeping dignity intact. Esperanza Spalding appears to be attempting an even bigger leap with Emily's D+Evolution, moving from her acoustic-bass-centered jazz to a dystopian sci-fi rock concept album in the manner of Ziggy Stardust. It's the kind of risk that can guarantee a stumble, but instead she's created an hour-long, 14-track masterpiece. How many artists could shift from the opening "Good Lava," which recalls Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy, to the layered "Judas" two tracks later, with suggestions of Joni Mitchell's Hejira? There are a couple unadorned tracks, like the beautiful "One," but the album as a whole is a strangely silly symphony that's by turns serious and light-hearted. Adventurous fans will be happily puzzling over Emily's D+Evolution for years to come. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Matthew Bourne
  • Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne

moogmemory

The Leaf Label

File next to: Philip Glass, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Brian Eno

The Memorymoog was the last synthesizer produced by Moog Music during the original company's run; while a deeply versatile and expressive instrument, its complex inner workings made it highly unreliable, and that contributed both to damaging Moog's reputation and to the company's 1986 bankruptcy (Dr. Bob Moog later founded a second Moog Music that is quite successful). Nominally a jazz musician, Matthew Bourne moved into more avant-garde and electronic sounds more than a decade ago. His third album, moogmemory, was realized solely on a retrofitted Memorymoog. The album is far less experimental than one might suspect, and the results are fascinating: soothing yet intriguing (and often surprisingly melodic) melodies that have the feel of Brian Eno's Another Green World-era instrumentals, albeit without a rock aesthetic. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Bill Pritchard
  • Bill Pritchard

Bill Pritchard

Mother Town Hall

Tapete Records

File next to: Ray Davies, Lloyd Cole, Martin Newell

Despite having released nine albums since 1987, England-based Bill Pritchard isn't well-known at home, much less here in the USA: He's developed a sizable following in France, of all places. His music has the wry storytelling vibe of Nick Lowe, and his expressive baritone has been described as midway between Squeeze's Chris Difford and Robyn Hitchcock. His songwriting is sharp and focused. Songs like Mother Town Hall's opening track "Saturn and Co." — slyly referencing his late-'80s minor hit "Tommy & Co." — have deeply memorable hooks, often helped along by some lovely vocal la-la-las. The left-handed guitarist also makes superb use of subtle textures — tinkling electric pianos, brushed drums — to deliver his winning melodies. Though his jangling style is still rooted in the '80s alternative pop world, there's a timeless feel to his songs that elevates them far beyond genre. — Bill Kopp

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