Jazz Passengers: Reunited

Reunited holds a double meaning for the Jazz Passengers’ first album in 12 years. On an obvious level, it brings most of the original lineup of the Downtown New York band back together, with guitarist Marc Ribot trading barbs with trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and alto/soprano saxophonist Roy Nathanson, vibraphonist Bill Ware, bassist Bradley Jones and drummer E.J. Rodriguez. (Violinist Sam Bardfeld is the only non-original Passenger.) The group also tackles the Peaches & Herb hit “Reunited” with its trademark wry humor that neither mocks the song nor gets too caught up in its romance. The Passengers adapt the chorus to give it a personal touch, and add some trademark horn shrieks to good effect. And therein lies the beauty of this band, where humor comingles with a serious love for the music.

A few popular cover songs and choice guests galvanize this collection, starting with Elvis Costello, whose dramatic voice suits Nathanson’s beautiful and haunting “Wind Walked By.” At the other end, semi-regular Passenger Deborah Harry appears on two “bonus” live tracks from 1995. The loungey take on her Blondie hit “One Way or Another” feels a little too cute, but she shines on Jones’ “Think of Me.” In between, the band tears up Radiohead’s raunchy “The National Anthem,” pulls out no-nonsense funk on “Button Up,” and takes ample opportunity to stretch out and wail. Special mention must be made of Fowlkes’ singing voice: He has such a smooth, impeccable delivery he could probably put the trombone down and pursue a new career.