Jewels And Binoculars - "The Music of Bob Dylan"
Jewels And Binoculars - "Floater"

[Ramboy Recordings,]

Various Artists - "Is it Rolling Bob? A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan"
[RAS / Sanctuary,]

Tributes are only appropriate when the person attempting one has something new to add to the original. What's the point of rehashing the same old song and story anyhow? Bob Dylan can consider himself lucky that there are musicians who actually think up of concepts albums as tributes to his work.

Memory is a funny thing. I recall certain events when I first heard Clusone 3's debut. More importantly, I remember many events happening around me when I fell in love with Michael Moore Trio's "Bering" album almost a decade ago. Its' tenderness and utter beauty was blinding. I was left stunned, drooling and speechless, as I gathered my thoughts on the music that Michael Moore dropped at my feet. Could he top this great feat? Jewels and Binoculars is a trio that reed player / composer Michael Moore assembled specifically to resurrect the music of Bob Dylan. I can't recall if anyone in the realm of jazz has ever attempted to cover the music of Dylan, but if they have, their attempts were probably somewhat uneventful. Bassist Lindsey Horner and percussionist Michael Vatcher complete this tribute trio. This is about a lot more than just a simple tribute. What these three musicians accomplish here is they pay their due respects by doing an original take on Dylan's music. The music is about gentleness and it shows off its airy quality right from the start. Michael chooses to play bass clarinet as much as his alto. The sound is sparkling and clear, in moments, even showing off a little muscle. When he picks up his melodica, it's almost as if the world came to a stand still. It's the utter calm in the music that Michael explores. Percussionist Michael Vatcher makes a deliberate decision to go heavy on the brushes and caresses his cymbals with loving care. All the while, Lindsey Horner is heard plucking away on his bass very tenderly, with hushed delicacy, never showing any desire to overtake the leader. Jewels and Binoculars' debut is a very lovingly realized record, one full of warmth, grace and finesse.

Along a similar vain, comes along "Floater". Though not as hushed as the debut, Jewels and Binoculars continue to amaze with their musical mastery and their skilled tendencies to underplay. Much of Dylan's material is once again easily recognizable, but what I love the most is how the trio plays around the themes and adds their own touches of beauty. Michael's clarinet work is even more tender and graceful. When he plays themes on his alto sax, it's almost as if he were recalling Tony Coe at his peak. The rhythm section is again unmistakably respectful to their leader. Both Lindsey Horner and Michael Vatcher tend to underplay the themes. It's almost as if they were trying to tip toe around a large, sleeping grizzly bear. The climaxes on this record are so quiet, if you don't listen carefully enough, you're bound to miss them. Both of these records are for serious lovers of music that is rich, tender and challenging.

Dylan was covered by reggae acts before. Look no further than 2002's "Blowin' in the Wind" compilation for proof. Truth be know, Dylan was a favourite target for reggae tributes for years past. Compilation albums have one similarity between them, which is some tracks are killers, while others are wilted and doomed to die from the start. There is no difference here, as a handful of acts outshine the rest. The Mighty Diamond's take on "Lay, Lady, Lay" is a killer, though a soft take on this Dylan favourite. Sizzla gets top marks for originality as he turns "Subterranean Homesick Blues" on its head. Finally, Bob Dylan shows up himself on a reggae remix of "I and I" [which features Sly & Robbie]. In terms of weaknesses, there are only a few. Luciano does a frail and bland version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", while JC Lodge just doesn't convince me with their take of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right". On the bright side, we get an added bonus, in the form of a second 40 minute dub CD. Whether you're a fan of Dylan or not, now's the time to reap the rewards.

Tom Sekowski

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