Consumer Guide Album
The Jazz Passengers Featuring Deborah Harry: Individually Twisted [32 Records, 1997]
A friend of Roy Nathanson since long before this band began a decade ago, I've loved the Passengers on stage, where the saxophonist kept the interactions grooving like the comic actor he also is, and found their records arty. Here the artiest track is Elvis Costello's (and bassist Brad Jones's) long-lined "Aubergine," the runner-up "Imitation of a Kiss," originally the pick to click on In Love, counted the Passengers' pop move in 1994 because it had lyrics. From Nathanson and Harry's slantwise opener to Blondie's loopy closer, from David Cale's mock-'40s exotica to Nathanson's jump blues homage, its pleasures are various and manifest, and if they're over the head of the average Costello completist, that's because this pop move isn't aimed at any kind of average. Starting with the girl singer, it's real musicians tweaking real sophistication into something genuinely cooler--and warmer.