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Bobby McFerrin

Blue Note

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Don’t knock vocalist/composer Bobby McFerrin for collaborating with the either much-loved or much-despised fusion ensemble the Yellowjackets on this date, because the title selection, the subsequent “Remembrance,” and his tender, sighing interpretation of Miles Davis’ “Selim” are compelling and downright lovely—and would probably be so even if the backing were provided by the World Saxophone Quartet. What you might wish for, however, is the same degree of lyrical and melodic invention in McFerrin’s “Heaven’s Design” and “My Better Half,” which are textually clear and structurally attractive, yet lack the conviction and romance of the aforementioned wordless performances. Still, McFerrin acquits himself on yet another collaboration with ’Jackets pianist/leader Russell Ferrante, “Freedom Is a Voice.” The piece’s unfettered optimism (which I know is a sore spot for some where McFerrin’s work is concerned) and the singer’s swirling, ever-expanding vocal palette, come forth to save the collection, if not the day. CP