Review by Sean Westergaard
Given the glut of "String Quartet Tribute to So and So," "Electronic Tribute to Some Crappy Band," and "Pickin' on Whomever" "tributes," it's somewhat surprising that no one has tackled Pavement in a tribute album — not until now, at any rate. And even more surprising is that it's not one of those aforementioned knockoffs; it's a heavyweight jazz session with James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, and Reginald Veal, three of jazz's finest players on their respective instruments (rounded out by the talented Ali Jackson on drums). You may be asking, "what the hell are a bunch of jazzbos doing playing Pavement tunes?" The short answer, "making a great album." Remember, underneath their slacker image and loose, lo-fi aesthetic, Pavement's best tunes were memorable and melodic with interesting (though sometimes ramshackle) arrangements. Carter and Company play to those strengths as a unit, and Gold Sounds is an overwhelming success, not just as a tribute but as a jazz album. Chestnut's sparkling Fender Rhodes shines throughout, and Veal really shows his versatility on both electric and acoustic bass. James Carter is hands down one of the greatest reedmen alive: he can play it tender or can summon squalls on his instruments that rival electric guitars. As a group, the entire band is locked into each other and the tunes (just listen to the tradeoffs between tenor, Rhodes, and drums as Veal holds the groove on "Stereo"), which generally don't depart drastically from the original arrangements beyond the instrumentation. "Summer Babe" is one of several highlights, with great electric bass and soulful playing. With judicious overdubs, Carter adds a second tenor and Chestnut comps on Hammond organ while soloing on Rhodes (and check out Carter's percussive comping). "Cut Your Hair" is slowed way down with more great Rhodes/Hammond work and Carter's soulful soprano. Toward the end, they kick it into high gear by upping the tempo for the outro. "Blue Hawaiian" is built on the same smooth bassline, and Chestnut sends his Rhodes through a Leslie speaker to great effect as Carter tears it up on tenor and Jackson dances around the beat. The set closes with a rousing solo piano version of "Trigger Cut." If you're a Pavement fan, you owe it to yourself to check out what these guys do with the songbook. If you're a jazz fan, forget that these tunes come from the world of indie rock; in the hands of Carter and Chestnut, they might as well be undiscovered standards.