African Swim and Manny & Lo

John Lurie

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African Swim and Manny & Lo Review

by Tim DiGravina

Renaissance man John Lurie displays track after track of abstract jazz vibes on this exuberant album compiling two film soundtracks. The general atmosphere is one of gentle jazz inflections. There's a mysterious, Southern air to much of the guitar work. Most of the songs are quiet yet emotionally charged instrumentals. When Lurie and his collaborators (including Medeski, Martin & Wood and Marc Ribot) do supply vocals, they're quite humorous and effective. "Big Trouble" sees Lurie telling hilarious tales of the dilemmas of everyday desires, using the vocal stylings of a Southern bluesman. "She's Not a Nurse" is a joyous Ramones-style romp, with raging punk overtones. The only complaint against any of these songs, across both soundtracks, is that they're simply too short. Many songs just start to register their charms and then end under the one-minute mark. Thankfully, the rolling, cocktail interplay of "Manny & Lo (End Titles)" lasts six minutes. It's hard to imagine any of these 25 songs not working perfectly as the score to any film, since Lurie attempts and masters so many different musical styles. African Swim and Manny & Lo sees Lurie creating remarkably pleasurable, accomplished jazz soundscapes. Atmospheric and controlled, Lurie's music works as a darkly humorous, pretty ode to life's hardships and simple pleasures. It seems as if John Lurie can do no wrong.

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