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CD Review: Neneh Cherry & The Thing's The Cherry Thing 

Smalltown Supersound; Release date: June 19, 2012

In 2001, Swedish out-music trio The Thing — led by sax giant Mats Gustafsson and named after a song by the late cornetist Don Cherry — released a self-titled debut of white-heat explorations launched from Cherry's free-jazz themes. So, the notion of The Thing backing Cherry's stepdaughter Neneh — the former Rip Rig + Panic singer who scored a Top 10 blockbuster in 1988 with "Buffalo Stance" and has since lent her vocals to Timo Maas and Gorillaz, among others — isn't the out-of-left-field proposition it might seem without those connections.

And occasionally the pairing comes together sublimely on this set of six covers and two originals. The foursome turn Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream" from insomniac's wish to dreamy lullaby by opting for a deep blues groove over the original's skittish Motorik beat (Gustafsson sounds more like Morphine's Dana Colley than Albert Ayler here). They stretch out the MF DOOM/Madvillian joint "Accordion" to six minutes, Cherry treating the rap like scat as the trio heats the tempo behind her. And they morph Ornette Coleman's "What Reason" — a 1971 song reuniting the altoist's early-'60s quartet, including Don Cherry — from a cacophonous "love generation" statement to a late-night ballad of longing and loneliness.

Elsewhere the collaboration falls apart. The Thing does a decent job recreating the industrial grime of The Stooges' "Dirt," but Iggy's feral growl is simply beyond the Cherry's life-experience. And on Gustafsson's "Sudden Moment," she is turned into a virtual bystander by the sheer ferocity that The Thing generates. It's then you realize you could enjoy one or the other better than both together — not the best verdict for a collab.

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