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"Must Go On" opens with an energetic squall of fiddle provided by ace bow man Frankie Gavin and builds momentum with producer Kevin Armstrong's chunky guitar swipes. "I'll Always Stay" is ushered in by Vinnie Kilduff's keening tin whistle, plus some always-haunting uilleann pipes, and is kept pumping by the muscular drum work of Richie Stevens. The reggae beat takes a front seat on "One Glimpse of You," which boasts an energetic snippet of toasting by Mikie Brooks. Most remarkable of all is "How I Cry," a lost-love lament that merges Boden's ethereal musing with a funkalicious bass line. This is a groove worthy of Neneh Cherry at the top of her game.

The weaker tunes ("Paddy's Call," "Fairest") sag under the weight of Armstrong's dense production and come off sounding like the soundtrack to a Celtic porn film. When Boden's got it going on, though, there's nothing quite like her. Which means it's only a matter of time before the legions of Celt-tech grow thick with imitators.

-- Steven Almond

Keith Jarrett
Mozart: Piano Concertos
(ECM New Series)
Bobby McFerrin/Chick Corea
The Mozart Sessions
(Sony Classical)

Two contemporary jazz pianists and one vocalist cast a loving gaze more than two centuries back at Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and everyone comes out a winner -- even Mozart.

Keith Jarrett, for decades a respected if temperamental jazz musician, has been carving a definite niche lately in the classical market. This two-fer set is his best classical effort yet, and it contains essential works from the last seven years of Mozart's short life. Two orchestral selections (the Masonic Funeral Music and Symphony no. 40) make highly favorable impressions here thanks to the sinewy but not abrasive playing of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. When Jarrett joins them for three equally essential piano concertos (numbers 21, 23, and 27), however, the performances move from the praiseworthy to the transcendental. Jarrett plays with masculinity and great serenity, never contenting himself with mere prettiness, and the purity of his tone and articulation could not be bettered. Without ever going slack, Jarrett and Davies sound as if they have all the time in the world -- there's an otherworldly beauty to their interaction.

Although not on this exalted level, Corea and McFerrin's Mozart also has something to say. When negotiations for this project began in 1990, pianist Corea doubted whether his Mozart could be relevant, but McFerrin, eventually named creative chair of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (the group he conducts here), finally broke down his resistance. Concerts were followed by this recording of Piano Concertos numbers 20 and 23. There's an innovation here: Both concertos are preceded by a vocal and piano improvisation on the main themes by the two musicians. Corea also improvises the cadenzas for each concerto, and he does not limit himself to a traditional classical style by any means.

Goofy? Intrusive? Maybe. But if Glenn Gould could get away with stuff like this in the Fifties and Sixties, then why not Corea and McFerrin now?

-- Raymond Tuttle

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