Critic Tom Moon reviews two contrasting perspectives on the intersection of jazz and gospel music. Multi-instrumentalist Don Byron has just released "Love, Peace and Soul" featuring his New Gospel Quintet. Also out is a set of duets between the late pianist Hank Jones and bassist Charlie Haden, titled "Come Sunday." Moon says the two projects reimagine old-time religious tunes in surprisingly different ways.
Hailing from the rain-soaked, indie folk hub that is Portland, Ore., the members of Y La Bamba are pretty far from their Latin inspirations. But this pop outfit is centered around the powerful, otherworldly vocals of Luz Elena Mendoza, and some of her main influences came from a childhood in Mexico — accordions, mariachi and Latin rhythms.
Real Estate's music is a disarmingly delicate thing, crafted out of tenderly shimmering guitars and blurry images of a past that's both rose-colored and sepia-toned. But the songs are far from showy: Paced evenly and sung in a near-whisper, they could only be made by a band standing stock-still. Last year's album Days is a tiny wonder, meeting at the middle between beachy '60s pop and bittersweet '90s college radio, but it was made for the studio rather than the stage.
This week, more than 2,000 bands will perform live as part of the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas — and each will hope to stand out somehow. It's one thing to play SXSW, but another to generate excitement.