ROBBIE ROBERTSON ``Robbie Robertson'' (Geffen GHS 24160) - This is guitarist/singer Robertson's first album since his ``Last Waltz'' with The Band in 1978, and it's an excellent one. The album is co-produced by Daniel Lanois, producer of Peter Gabriel and U2, who join Robertson on several songs. These performers exert the strongest influence on Robertson's music. The result is collaborative rather than derivative, though, with Robertson tackling diverse new material while still dishing out a generous dose of his Band-style singing. CHER ``Cher'' (Geffen GHS 24164) - Cher comes back after a five-year respite from singing. This time she flirts with heavy metal (with some help from Jon Bon Jovi and Aerosmith producer Desmond Child), and it's a natural for her. Her voice, a little too strident at times for mainstream pop, is a perfect match for hard rock. Included is a metal-tinged, quite effective version of the Sonny and Cher classic ``Bang Bang.''
STEVE WINWOOD ``Chronicles'' (Island 25660-1) - Winwood's 20-year-plus singing career is celebrated in this overview, which chronicles his recordings from 1977 to '86. Included are ``Vacant Chair,'' from the album ``Steve Winwood,'' the title song from his hit album ``Arc of a Diver,'' and three hits from ``Back in the High Life'' including his big hit ``Higher Love.''
TOM SCOTT ``Streamlines'' (GRP CD: GRD-9555) - Saxophonist Tom Scott makes a comeback, this time on GRP Records. Although elements of classic '70s L.A. Express fusion pop up here and there, Scott explores some new directions, especially with Caribbean rhythms. Unfortunately, the rest reveals less of Scott and more of what has come to be known as the ``GRP sound'' - slick over-production that tends to mask the individuality of that label's artists.
BENNY CARTER AND THE AMERICAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA ``Central City Sketches'' (Musicmasters CIJD 6012X) - This compact disc is more or less a re-creation of a live concert given last year, featuring some of saxophonist Benny Carter's classic compositions, plus an extended new work, ``Central City Sketches.'' The American Jazz Orchestra swings tightly under Carter's baton. The soloists are outstanding, especially saxophonist/flutist Lew Tabackin and trumpeter John Eckert, who both have a real feel for Carter's music.
JEFF BEAL ``Liberation'' (Antilles New Directions 90625-1) - A sparkling debut for trumpeter/composer Beal, who at age 23, has played with both the Basie and Woody Herman bands. But here Beal explores a more contemporary jazz/rock fusion, with symphonic overtones. In his creative hands the format becomes more than just another bland foray into '80s wimp jazz - he's a deft, adventurous composer and arranger, and a strong improviser.