Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The absence of a theme in this bundle of CD reviews is a theme in itself. The point being that individual style doesn't determine quality. Music needs to be judged on its own terms, whether it's Sonny Rollins, Otis Taylor or Brazilian hip-hop. All good music is serious music.
Brazilian Girls, ``Talk to La Bomb'' (Verve): Nobody in this band is Brazilian, and only one of the musicians is a girl -- Sabina Sciubba, who was born in Rome, grew up in Munich and Nice on the Riviera, lives in Brooklyn and sings in five languages.
A melange of reggae, hard rock, samba, electronica, 1920s Berlin and downtown speed, this album is at once playful and sinister. The group's ambiguity (its name, for example, or its song ``Never Met a German'') is intriguing.
Sciubba makes a point of always hiding part of her face behind shades, wide-brimmed hats or sexy lace, although, happily, she doesn't hide her spectacular legs. The lyrics are smart, the musicianship excels, and the bass player performs in his underwear. This is rock for adults.
The Brazilian Girls have played for Uma Thurman's birthday party. They recently appeared on ``Late Night With David Letterman,'' are currently touring the American Midwest, and will perform on New Year's Eve at the Irving Plaza in New York.
The Real Deal
Favela Chic, ``Postonove 4,'' (Wagram Music): The fourth in a series, this collection is the real Brazilian deal, and what it lacks in ambiguity it makes up for in a whole lot of insistent, samba swing. (Postonove is the Ipanema beach where, so the producers say, in English, the ``relax people'' hang out.)
It's a weird mix of roots and the fashionable coming from a variety of places -- slums, dancehalls, town squares -- around Brazil. Some of the tracks are acoustic and down-home; others have an alarmingly up-front mix of bass guitars and electronic drums. There are saxophones, homemade flutes, trumpets, a walking bass, rock guitar, experimental hip-hop, and what the producers call ``the Ella Fitzgerald of Bahian pop music.''
The Portuguese language is musical on its own, so understanding the lyrics isn't essential. This is one good example of music being the universal language.
Sonny Rollins, ``Sonny, Please'' (Doxy Records): Sonny Rollins may be more of an acquired taste. Genius usually is.
``I am convinced that all art has the desire to leave the ordinary,'' he has said.
At the age of 76 and in his first new studio recording in five years, the Saxophone Colossus retains his outsized desire and a clear mind. Although his tone has hardened some, he is as recognizable as ever. One of the last of the living ``greats,'' always among the purest of improvisers, a master of the blues, Rollins is most lyrical when improvising variations on a standard like, on this album, Noel Coward's ``Someday I'll Find You.''
Sonny Rollins left the ordinary a long time ago.
Otis Taylor, ``Definition of a Circle'' (Telarc): The music of Otis Taylor is one good example of the almost infinite possibilities of that deceptively simple form, the blues.
With Gary Moore's lead guitar, Ron Miles's soulful cornet, Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica, Nick Amodeo on mandolin, and his own vocals, guitar and banjo, Taylor continues to renew both the subject matter and the sound of the blues. There are ``operatic'' vocals and cello ostinatos over backbeats.
Taylor, who for two decades ran an antiques dealership in Colorado, writes about the plight of gypsies in Europe and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One song is a father's lullaby for his biracial child.
Elsewhere, a neighbor threatens to take a man's woman and land. A doorman in a juke joint in the deep South tells a wild young man he can't come in. And a cowboy is forced to go back to Mexico when his green card is confiscated