September 2005

Andy Summers
The X Tracks
Fuel 2000

Andy Summers likes to name-drop. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. It’s just that his notes for The X Tracks seem so self-satisfied, as he recalls recording and dining with Herbie Hancock, rapper Q-Tip and Debbie Harry.

The once and forever Police guitarist will never be a mere hanger-on, but the tracks collected from four recent solo albums indicate that despite impeccable taste and tone, he often fumbles when he takes a shot at jazz—at least when playing someone else’s music.

Two of his albums paid tribute to Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, respectively. “Ruby My Dear,” on solo acoustic guitar, proves Summers has a deep appreciation and understanding of this music. Sting keeps his ego in check, and “’Round Midnight” sounds strong and not like just another version of an overplayed classic. Q-Tip reads a Mingus text over “Pork Pie Hat,” and the combination works. But a smooth backbeat kills “Boogie Stop Shuffle.” “Weird Nightmare,” sung by Harry, sounds like power ballad from a James Bond film.

The originals that bookend the disc—“Big Thing” and “Earth & Sky”—sound more convincing, leaning more toward muscular progressive rock with jazz improvisation.

Originally published in September 2005

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