Music: Jazz Round-up

THE AMERICAN guitarist Pat Metheny's new album, A Map of the World (Warner Brothers), is derived from the sound-track to a forthcoming film of the same name starring Sigourney Weaver. Cynically, this sounds like a match made in heaven; Metheny's music often comes with a treacle-thick coating of folksy sentiment, and a predilection for technique at the expense of intelligence. Of course, he's a great guitarist, but unless you're a guitarist yourself (as many fans are), this isn't really enough. No offence, of course.

Metheny, who has composed all the material and extended the film score with a 25 minutes' worth of thematic variations, plays acoustic guitars, piano and keyboards. The music veers between John Williams-ish bombast to sensitive guitar-led themes in The Deerhunter genre associated with that other John Williams. At times it is beautiful in a New Age sort of way, recalling Metheny's album with Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky.

After Metheny's ethereal noodlings, the reassuringly earth-bound grooves of Horace Silver come as a relief. The Horace Silver Retrospective (Blue Note), is a four-CD boxed set of selections from the pianist's nearly- 30-year-long stay with the label. Silver made so many albums for Blue Note that it's impossible to buy them all, and he's also such a well known quantity that there's a real danger of his being overlooked. Though associated most strongly with the churchy soul jazz of the Jazz Messengers - founded with Art Blakey - and his own later groups, he's been a notable composer, a talent-spotting bandleader and a killer pianist for close to 50 years now. His early experience with Latin bands also helped broaden jazz in the Fifties and Sixties, bridging the gap between bop and boogaloo. The 1965 album Songs For My Father is still the Silver album to get, but almost everything in the box is reliably good.

Although it's not a jazz album, there are strong echoes of Horace Silver's gospel-inflected piano style on Flak, by the British composer Graham Fitkin. The first four tracks, composed for four people on two pianos, ring out with ecstatic, rolling chords whose jangling overtones suggest barrelhouse and boogie-woogie as Stravinsky might have heard them. The album is available from Graham Fitkin Records on 01923 493903, or www.fitkin.com.

More authentically churchy is Jazz in the Sanctuary - Spirit of the Nation (Canopy Music). It's a British gospel album, with sanctified singers backed up by jazz musicians such as Mario Castronari, Dave Cliff and Rowland Sutherland. Harking back to the "Baptist Beat", recordings by soul jazz stars such as Les McCann and Donald Byrd, enthusiasm more than make up for the low budget. Anyone who likes Take 6 will find the album interesting. Available on mail order from 0208 694 8250, or canopyatglobalnet.co.uk.

Finally, Tim Richards' Great Spirit (33 Jazz, 051) summons up the bluesy flavour of mid-period Charles Mingus. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the pianist's group Spirit Level, it features a nonet with the Mercury Prize nominee Denys Baptiste, with Gilad Atzman, Dick Pearce and Tony Kofi. Best of all, it comes with an additional CD of tracks by earlier incarnations of Spirit Level, in which the Eighties Brit-jazz vogue for feisty, late-Coltrane, blowing is captured with marvellous (low) fidelity.

The trumpeter Jack Walrath - a Mingus sideman for many years - can be heard on four tracks. Truly a blast from the past.

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