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HORNE, BENNETT HAVEN'T LOST THAT OLD MAGIC

A couple of old friends have returned to pay a welcome visit.

- Lena Horne has been entertaining for 60 years or so, but on "We'll Be Together Again" (Blue Note CD CDP 7243) she displays the same emotion, sensuality and style she had as a 16-year-old dancer at Harlem's Cotton Club. Last year she enchanted critics with a 40-minute set at the Lincoln Center during a tribute to Billy Strayhorn and, knowing a good thing when she sees it, five of the 16 tracks on this album are Strayhorn.Horne is backed by a 20-piece string orchestra, plus three appearances by harmonica legend Toots Thielemans. Johnny Mathis pops in for one duet ("Day Follows Day"), and I don't know why because it doesn't work. Just about everything else does, particularly the title song and Stephen Sond-heim's "Old Friends."

- Tony Bennett checks in with "Unplugged" (Columbia CD CK 66214), an album that features 20 tracks. Bennett sails through the standards as if he is double-parked. As usual, he often startles the listener with his unconventional phrasing and, as usual, sometimes he's on target and other times he isn't. But Tony can't do wrong before the live audience, which he reminds at least four times, "You are beautiful!"

If you think that's old-fashioned hyperbole, he says on the album there are many great artists, but that others are blessed with a destiny that goes beyond success, ones who become immortal like Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Hank Williams. A strange troika in itself. Who is he talking about this time? Give up? Who else but k.d. lang, who joins Tony for "Moonglow" in a coupling that is no more satisfying than Mathis with Lena. A col-laboration with Elvis Costello on "They Can't Take That Away From Me" works a little better. But it's tested songs like "Rags to Riches," "A Foggy Day" and, of course, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (along with personal favorite "When Joanna Loved Me") that stir old emotions.

- Usually if I don't like an album, it is ignored in this space, but an exception must be made for Pat Metheny's latest, "Zero Tolerance for Silence" (Geffen CD DG 99998). Understandably, there are no liner notes because I don't think Metheny can explain this solo guitar effort without exposing what is behind this nonsense. I am a big Metheny fan, and a number of his albums are in my collection, but this obnoxious opus of overdub left me as dismayed and troubled as the time when the pet gerbil tumbled into the garbage disposal. Say it ain't so, Pat.

- It only takes a few chords before guitarist Norman Brown shows the Wes Montgomery influence on "After the Storm" (MoJazz CD 314530301-2), his second album for the new jazz label for Motown Records. His first, "Just Between Us," sold more than 131,000 copies and was the initial release for this label, which also combined R&B with jazz.

- I'm afraid my tastes aren't very sophisticated when it comes to Brazilian pop music, but the good people at Atlantic Jazz inform us that singer/songwriter Gilberto Gil is "an inspiration to two generations of Brazilian singers, a beloved politician, a cultural hero." So I guess I'd be wise to suggest you listen to Gil's "Acoustic" (Atlantic CD 82564) and judge for yourself.