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James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Ali Jackson, Reginald Veal: Gold Sounds

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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.”