Cross-pollination between jazz and pop music has become something of a mini-trend in the last few years, ranging from interesting fusions and covers on smaller labels up to a high-exposure Grammy for Herbie Hancock's renditions of Joni Mitchell songs. In the same vein, Los Angeles-based sax player Tom Luer reworks a handful of major hits into easygoing West Coast modern jazz on Project Popular. This is light, airy music fresh from the cafes more than the nightclubs, and seemingly opposed to the darker material Luer chose to cover. Aside from his own excellent compositions, Pearl Jam's dark classic "Jeremy," Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," and tidbits from Prince, Audioslave, and Coldplay are represented. The magic here, however, is in the skill with which the pieces are both rearranged (into light, almost happy pieces) and the skill with which the pieces are played by Luer's ensemble. Solos come only when they fit, strings dance lightly over melodic lines, and both lead and rhythm combine to find the ultimate goal -- pieces that sound simultaneously entirely new due to their lightness and arrangement styles, and entirely familiar due to their essential core.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg