Just because a musician gets old and gray doesn't mean that she's a nostalgia act or that his creative days are behind him. Here are three new CDs that prove the point:
About Time, Paul Bley (Age 75). The brilliant avant-garde pianist improvises for 33 minutes about the nature of time and memory. Tempi shift suddenly, dynamics change, and time goes on. Largely contemplative, Bley explores the elusive nature of his subjects with insight and nuance. While his introspective style recalls Bill Evans, to these ears Bley plays with greater complexity and muscularity. Like time, "About Time" passes all too quickly while seeming to stand still, so for fun he includes an interpretation of Sonny Rollin's "Pent-Up House." Beautiful, wise, and compelling.
Can You Deal With It?, Andre Williams and the New Orleans Hellhounds (Age 71). Go figure: A journeyman R & B shouter teams up with a New Orleans bar band and channels the heart and soul of The Clash. They may not be The Only Band That Matters, but I guarantee you that somewhere Joe Strummer is listening and smiling. Not to mention tapping his feet.
Day After Tomorrow, Joan Baez (Age 67). The pristine soprano is now more of a weathered contralto. But the voice of experience buttressed by a deeply held faith and Steve Earle's sympathetic production easily betters the easy certainties of her youth. Singing ten songs by the likes of Earle, Patty Griffin, Elyza Gilkyson, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits (!), Baez makes them all indelibly hers. She looks back with few regrets, looks ahead with hope, and still believes...
Paul Bley performs "Lucky" and reflects on the role of art in anticipating the future and defining the past: