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High Pockets: Picasso’s Dogs

The most unexpected, infectious and original album of the year thus far comes from Florida-based septet High Pockets. The group’s relentlessly energetic Picasso’s Dog (Song-o-saurus 724777; 51:41) blends Louisiana swamp zydeco and Latin jazz as its primary ingredients, mixing in peppery dashes of additional elements for the most ebullient world-beat stew since Australia’s the catholics. The album opens with a joyous zydeco-salsa read of the oft-covered Rolling Stones classic “Satisfaction” to get listeners hooked, then launches into such gems as “Lead Without License,” an oom-pah blues built on an accordion and tuba foundation and African beats, topped by a growling trombone solo. Highlights include “Sunscreen,” which threads its strong Caribbean percussive feel with an accordion echo and Latin elements, and title track “Picasso’s Dog,” with a dreamy waltz feel augmented by dark, offbeat textures for a dizzying effect. Other tracks, like “Mardi Gras Stomp” and a full-bodied, crazed merengue-tinged cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” are pure energy-infectious and bright, with their creative arrangements well matched by stellar musicianship.

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