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Review: Saxman Jimmy Greene's album is spirited, spiritual


Jimmy Greene, "While Looking Up" (Mack Avenue)

Change is a constant on jazz saxman Jimmy Greene's new album, “While Looking Up.” The 68-minute set flies by because of the way he varies the performing cast and mood.

Greene's daughter was a Sandy Hook shooting victim, and the album title refers to the direction he looks for peace and strength. He conveys plenty of both with playing that's by turns lyrical, soulful, spirited and spiritual.

Greene performs three covers, and they're all excellent. A quintet including guitarist Lage Lund gives Cole Porter's “So In Love” a childlike innocence. “Good Morning Heartache” has a stark, bluesy throb played by a trio. Whitney Houston's “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” becomes an unlikely highlight, with Greene taking the lyrics to heart and flipping the song's familiar mood with a mournful interpretation.

There are lighter moments. Keyboardist Aaron Goldberg injects bits of wit by quoting “Summertime,” “Carmen” and “Swinging on a Star,” while Stefon Harris joins in on marimba to help a sextet find delightful syncopation in “Always There.”

On the closing “Simple Prayer,” Greene's tenor leads a swaggering, righteous quartet that soars at the end, looking upward.

Steven Wine, The Associated Press