A Fire That Burns Brightly

Sweetly piercing alto saxophonist Roy Nathanson, who usually leads the Jazz Passengers, delivers what may be the greatest jazz theme album ever, an ode to a fictional dive that burned down, leaving bereft a cast of boho characters sung by Elvis Costello — heard on "Fire Suite 1" (RealAudio excerpt) — along with post-bopster Nancy King, the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler, Blondie's Deborah Harry and others. Brechtian lyrics by Ray Dobbins blend wonderfully with Nathanson's jazz noir, superbly played mainly by the Jazz Passengers, plus the late Hammond B3 king Charles Earland.