Various Artists

BET on Jazz Presents: Jazz Now

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When people think of Black Entertainment Television (BET), they think of R&B and rap -- those genres are its bread and butter. But BET hasn't ignored jazz, and BET on Jazz has focused on a variety of jazz styles. When BET on Jazz first got started, some cynics feared the worst and predicted that it would end up being the cable TV equivalent of a smooth jazz/NAC station. But BET on Jazz opted for diversity, focusing on straight- ahead jazz, as well as more commercial stuff. Released by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) in 2001, BET on Jazz Presents: Jazz Now is a generally respectable compilation that offers both electric and acoustic sounds. There is plenty of straight-ahead bop and post-bop, including selections by Eric Alexander ("The Second Milestone") and Chris Potter ("Gratitude"). But the CD also gets into fusion with Bela Fleck's "Zona Mona" and pop-jazz crossover with Ed Calle's "Spanish Rose" and Bryan Savage's "Rush Hour." Thankfully, Jazz Now doesn't inundate listeners with a lot of outright elevator music -- even the more commercial tracks are generally decent or competent, if less than stunning. Though most of the tunes are instrumental, there are a few vocal offerings as well. Brazilian singer Flora Purim soars on "San Francisco River," while Jane Monheit gives a pleasant but unremarkable performance on the standard "I Can't Give You Anything but Love." Although uneven, Jazz Now is a good deal because it is so affordable -- the compilation has a list price of only $1.98. NARM figured that people who have only a casual interest in jazz would be willing to part with two dollars, and it hoped they would hear some things they liked and start spending more money on jazz. Not everything on Jazz Now is a gem, but at $1.98, it's worth picking up.

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