The second song on Joe Ely's 2011 album Satisfied at Last is titled "Not That Much Has Changed," and it's hard not to think that sums up the album pretty well. That isn't an insult: Ely has been making records since 1972, he knows his craft well, and he's still one of the most consistently rewarding artists to come out of the Texas singer/songwriter community. His voice is in great shape on Satisfied at Last, he brings a genuine passion and soul to his performances in the studio, and his tales of outlaws and ramblers trying to make their way under the big sky of the Southwest are still resonant, intelligent, and down to earth. But while some Joe Ely albums find the man experimenting with his style or embracing a more ambitious concept, Satisfied at Last is 39 minutes of the man doing what he's been doing for a long time, and as a consequence, it's somewhat short on surprises…..
Viva Caruso is easily one of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano's most ambitious and enjoyable recordings. Much like Terence Blanchard's Jazz in Film or Uri Caine's Urlicht/Primal Light, Viva Caruso finds the reedman adapting orchestral melodies and harmonies to a jazz format. Inspired after reading a biography about Italian tenor and opera legend Enrico Caruso, Lovano spent most of 2000 through 2001 researching Caruso's music and developing this project. There is a progressive, third stream appeal to Viva Caruso, with the various instruments laying down intricate counter-melodies and liquid, pulsating rhythms. For example, "Vesto La Giubba" from Pagliacci is slowed down here into a kind of folk-jazz meditation, not unlike something Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio might do. Likewise, "Campane a Sera" features a pretty flute introduction to a very mid-'50s, Stan Kenton-style arrangement, and Gerald Wilson could very easily have scored "Soltano a Te" with its characteristically West Coast, neo-phonic horn sounds.