Review: MC5's Wayne Kramer returns with jazz album

JOHN ROGERS Associated Press Published:

Wayne Kramer, "Lexington" (Industrial Amusement)

It's been 14 years since Wayne Kramer released an album, and the former MC5 guitarist says he expects fans of his work with that seminal punk-metal band might be annoyed with his journey into improv jazz in "Lexington."

Baffled might have been a better word choice, but those who stick around until the end will be pleasantly surprised -- and rewarded.

Kramer, who in recent years has been busy scoring films such as "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," began his migration toward jazz while doing the music for "The Narcotic Farm," a 2008 PBS documentary about the federal prison in Lexington, Ky., where he served two years in the 1970s for dealing cocaine.

With help from an eight-piece ensemble that includes a horn section led by trumpeter Charles Moore, he makes that migration complete in the eight instrumental tracks contained here.

And while the loud, screaming chords that once defined his signature work on albums like "Kick Out the Jams" are nowhere in sight, Kramer's own deft use of quieter guitar runs played in counterpoint to piano and trumpet, show that at age 65 he's lost none of the skill that led Rolling Stone magazine to declare him among rock music's 100 greatest guitarists.

Listen closely, particularly to "Chasing a Fire Engine" and "Spectrum Suite," which open and close the recording, and old fans will even discover some of the sonic distortion they once embraced.