And while Sting, Sheryl Crow, Mark Knopfler and Travis Tritt are enlisted in the effort to make Waylon relevant, Jennings returns the favor by dueting with one of his own musical forebears, Carl Smith, on a delightfully woozy take of Welch's "Untitled Waltz." But the ultimate point of Closing in on the Fire is that Jennings himself still has the fire, and really doesn't need much help to stoke it up. Given a sympathetic environment, he's made a record that proves how, time and again, ol' Waylon can be made new again by merely exercising the instincts that make him an American musical master. (***)

-- Rob Patterson

Freddy Cole
Love Makes the Changes
Fantasy Records

That Freddy Cole would be compared to his brother Nat "King" Cole was a foregone conclusion the moment Freddy became a jazz singer and pianist. Those comparisons to his older brother are not without merit: You can hear a bit of Nat in Freddy's voice, though at 66, his voice is grittier than Nat's ever was. Freddy's style is similar to Nat's in his heyday -- the later '40s/early '50s. Then there are the ballads, apparently the forte of the Cole family, though Freddy is more likely to sing "If I Had Your Love" than "Unforgettable."

While Cole has not achieved the same fame as his older brother -- an unreasonable goal for any singer -- he is both a respected and important jazz voice. His credentials are solid (he studied at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music and has penned a few jazz standards) and his music is consistently high-caliber. Often, the best thing about a new Freddy Cole release (aside from listening to it, of course) is the confidence that the music will be good, very good.

Such is the case with Love Makes the Changes, a collection of mostly ballads and bluesy mid-tempo standards that displays Cole in typically solid form. Though an accomplished pianist, Cole hands the piano-playing to the underrated Cedar Walton, who provides some pleasant surprises. He's also joined by Grover Washington Jr., whose identifiable sound on the title track and "The Right to Love" blends perfectly with Cole's voice. A gifted interpreter, Cole lends a certain innocence to the Oscar Brown classic "Brother Where Are You?" and even gives Billy Joel's schmaltzy "Just the Way You Are" a respectable workout. Throughout, Cole's voice is evocative and smooth, yet strong, and the performances are inspired.

An excellent release, Love Makes the Changes reminds us there aren't many things in this life better than listening to an old jazz pro, particularly when he's Freddy Cole. (**** 1/2)

-- Paul J. MacArthur

Jimmie Vaughan
Out There

Tone, subtlety and nuance -- that's the stuff that distinguishes Jimmie Vaughan from his better known brother, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. In fact, they serve as icons of the two opposing schools of modern blues-rock guitar: the showboating, fingers-of-fire, machine-gun-spray approach (Stevie), and the understated, make-every-note-count school (Jimmie). For the record, I prefer the latter, and even Stevie Ray seemed to be moving in that direction in his last Austin show, just a few months before he died -- perhaps one result of sobriety?

Jimmie's restraint means that it takes a couple of listens for Out There to sink in, but it's well worth the patience. And in these days, when scores of young players seem to be trying to outdo each other (and Stevie) by showing how much they can play, Jimmie demonstrates the merits of showing how little he can play, even though Out There is heavily laced with solos. The elder Vaughan brother understands the power of the music between the notes, which can be even more stunning than a fiery spray of hot riffs.

Out There follows in the style of Strange Pleasures, Vaughan's 1993 solo debut. Once again, his approach is blue-eyed soul, as much rhythm as blues (though the sound of this record is probably best described as blues and rhythm rather than R&B). It's Texas thing, doncha know, like the great T-Bone Walker.

The sensual pleasures of this slant may be best articulated on "The Ironic Twist," an instrumental track that falls somewhere between Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk" and Freddie King's "Hideaway" -- sassy, sexy and boozy Texas club music. If this were 30 years ago, every band in the Lone Star state would be learning this number for their break song. The other revelation here is also a wordless wonder: the sparse acoustic number "Little Son, Big Sun," which closes the affair with a Son House-style slice of trad-blues funk.

Which isn't to say that Vaughan is better when he's playing than when he's singing, because this once reticent vocalist is finding his zone. He sounds positively jubilant on the Nile Rodgers-written and -produced "Like a King," yet with the same delicious restraint displayed by his picking. He gets downright nasty on Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Motor Head Baby," and even pulls off a romantic talking blues on "Positively Meant to Be." One of the cool things about Out There is hearing how Vaughan's confidence as a frontman has grown.

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