Pavement is not the most obvious choice for an instrumental-jazz tribute. The '90s-era indie rock outfit is known for many things--its lit-grad lyrics, its slack musicianship, its style (for miles and miles)--but perhaps the least of which is the jazz-worthiness of its melodies. That's not to say that the band never wrote a stand-alone tune. As evidenced by saxophonist James Carter and Co.'s Gold Sounds, Pavement can claim several compositions that work sans lyrics: The Gold Sounds versions of "Cut Your Hair" and "Here," in particular, are both easily recognizable.
But a big hunk of the covers disc is, simply put, rather anonymous sounding, which leaves listeners with the quartet's somewhat cheesy conception of what it means to--gulp--rock. Carter frequently overblows, tainting otherwise pleasant lines with Jackie McLean-circa-Let Freedom Ring shrieks. And the rhythm section--keyboardist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Ali Jackson--downright oozes schmaltz, ruining "Stereo" and "Summer Babe" with decades-stale soul-jazz maneuvers. Obviously Pavement's essence is more than just killer lyrics accompanied by strumming. But reducing Pavement to a series of riffs also misses the mark. As frontman Stephen Malkmus once sang, "You may think it's easy, but you're wrong."