When you talk about David Bowie, you can’t help but acknowledge the air of mystique around him.
There’s that baroque album cover for “The Man Who Sold the World.” The toy piano tink of the song “Changes.” And he released a concept album called “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
And that’s just the first five years.
More recently, Bowie has enjoyed a career renaissance. He released one of his better albums in 2014, “The Next Day.” Let’s not forget he played Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” in 2006.
Like I said, mystique.
“Blackstar,” Bowie’s 25th studio album, is not the adult contemporary mularkey he was hawking back in the late ’90s and early 2000s. This is some vital progressive jazz rock.
Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and how that album incorporated jazz into its brew of hip-hop, Bowie and longtime producer Tony Visconti enlisted the heralded New York City crew, the Donny McCaslin Quartet.
This is probably the best band Bowie and Visconti have ever worked with, and the album has its magical moments.
“Sue (or In a Season of Crime)” feels like a less abrasive “Come to Daddy”-era Aphex Twin with its pattering snare and distorted guitar lines. “Girl Loves Me” oozes a brooding, vulgar cool.
The title track opens with a flurry of flutes. In the middle, the drums gallop like a trip-hop sample, propelling to a finale of more flutes and bit-crushed keyboards.
It’s only off-putting if you think Bowie, who celebrates his 69th birthday Friday, wasn’t capable of releasing something this weird. But then you consider career and best musical works. Almost every great Bowie record is weird, and that’s what makes them great — they’re slightly off-kilter but endearing. It’s like listening to a sorcerer of rock.
Only this time, there are more sax solos.
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter, @MatthewSigur.