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ACOUSTIC LEVITATION
BEST OF 2019

Dear Readers,

Start off by reading Craig Nixon’s 2019 faves, and then Robert Reigle’s 2019 list of new releases and back-catalog discoveries.  Then mine.  Yes, I have a lot of recommendations, but compared to the sheer quantity of excellent albums released this year, it’s just a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Next, audition these at your favorite streaming sites, and then, most important: support the artists by buying from their own or their label’s websites, and better yet, attend concerts and buy directly from the artists.  Keep our independent record stores like DowntownMusicGallery.com alive.  They fertilize artistic communities.

Steve Koenig,
Editor

* * * * * * * * *

CRAIG NIXON
Beacon, NY
Managing Editor

As it is every year, recordings are a trove of riches.  It's always next to impossible to narrow it down... the first draft gets it down to about 100 recordings.  In addition, choosing the best really implies you've heard all the rest.  Lifelong record nerd that I am, that was pretty much true in years past, not as much any longer. Of the dizzying myriad choices, these are 20 that particularly moved me this year.

JOHNATHAN BLAKE - Trion  (Giant Step Arts) https://johnathanblake1.bandcamp.com/releases

MATT BREWER - Ganymede  (CrissCross) 
https://www.crisscrossjazz.com/album/1403.html

MARC COPLAND - Gary  (Illusions Music) 
https://marccoplandjazz.bandcamp.com/album/gary-2

JOSEPH DALEY - The 7 Heavenly Virtues & The 7 Deadly Sins  (JoDa Music)
https://www.jodamusic.com/album-info/reissue-seven

THOMAS HEBERER, TERRENCE McMANUS, MICHAEL BATES, JEFF DAVIS - X Marks the Spot  (OutNow)
https://outnowrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/x-marks-the-spot

JAMES BRANDON LEWIS - An Unruly Manifesto  (Relative Pitch)  https://jamesbrandonlewis.bandcamp.com/releases

MARK A. LOMAX – 400: An Afrikan Epic, vols. 1-12 (CFG Multimedia)  https://marklomaxii.com/400-an-afrikan-epic_album

LAGE LUND - Terrible Animals  (Criss Cross)
https://www.crisscrossjazz.com/album/1402.html

SIMON NABATOV QUINTET -  Last Minute Theory  (Clean Feed)
https://cleanfeed-records.com/product/last-minute-theory/

QUINSIN NACHOFF - Path of Totality (Whirlwind) https://quinsinnachoff.bandcamp.com/album/path-of-totality


OGJB QUARTET (Oliver Lake, Graham Haynes, Joe Fonda, Barry Altschul) - Bamako  (TUM)  http://tumrecords.com/050-bamako/music

JEFF PLATZ, STEPHEN HAYNES, DAMON SMITH, MATT CRANE - Theory of Colors (Umland) https://umlandrecords.bandcamp.com/album/theory-of-colors

CHRIS POTTER - Circuits (Edition) 
https://editionrecords.com/releases/chris-potter-circuits/

MARIO PAVONE DIALECT TRIO - Philosophy  (Clean Feed) 
https://cleanfeed-records.com/product/philosophy/

ENRICO RAVA-JOE LOVANO - Roma (ECM) 
https://www.ecmrecords.com/catalogue/1561618665/roma-enrico-rava-joe-lovano

CHRISTOPHE ROCHER, JOE FONDA, HARVEY SORGEN - New Origin  (NotTwo)  https://www.nottwo.com/mw985

JAMIE SAFT QUARTET - Hidden Corners  (Rare Noise) 
https://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jamie-saft-quartet

MATTHIAS SPILLMAN TRIO - Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club  (Clean Feed) 
https://cleanfeed-records.com/product/live-at-the-birds-eye-jazz-club/

CHRIS STAMEY and the ModRec ORCHESTRA - New Songs for the 20th Century (Omnivore)  https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/new-songs-for-the-20th-century/

DAVID TORN, TIM BERNE, CHES SMITH - Sun Of Goldfinger (ECM)  https://www.ecmrecords.com/catalogue/1542813822/sun-of-goldfinger-david-torn-tim-berne-ches-smith

JOHN YAO'S TRICERATOPS - How We Do  (See Tao Recordings)
https://johnyao.bandcamp.com/

* * * * * * * * *

ROBERT F. REIGLE
Long Beach, California
Ethnomusicologist, composer, improviser

BEST DISCOVERIES OF 2019

As always, I include a handful of items of outstanding interest that I only recently discovered, though they were published before 2019.

BOOK


The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record.  Jonathan Scott.  London: Bloomsbury Sigma.  Published 2019.

RECORDINGS

AYLER, Albert (1936-1970).  Quartets 1964-Spirits to Ghosts Revisited.  Recorded February 24 and September 14, 1964.  Remastered 2019.  Liner notes by Art Lange.  Released by permission of the Albert Ayler estate.  Originally issued on Debut as Spirits and Ghosts, then reissued on various labels as Witches and Devils and Vibrations.  Basel, Switzerland: HatHut Records.  Released 2019.  https://www.hathut.com/

CENTURIES OF SOUND - James Errington.  An extraordinary website featuring podcasts of music and culture going back to 1853.  “Centuries of Sound is an attempt to produce an audio mix for every year of recorded sound.”  The podcasts won a bronze British Podcast Award for 2019.  https://centuriesofsound.com/

GESUALDO, Carlo (1566-1613). Secondo Libro di Madrigali.  Performed by La Compagnia del Madrigale, three female and three male singers.  Escorial, Spain: Glossa Music.  Released 2019.   http://www.glossamusic.com/glossa/default.aspx

HOSOKAWA Toshio (born 1955).  Gardens.  Vienna, Austria: Kairos Music.  0015017KAI.  Released 2019.  https://www.kairos-music.com/


IRAN. Music of Baluchistan (Regional Music of Iran 75): From Rapture to Ecstasy: Baluchi Songs.  Research, recording, and notes: Jean During.  Tehran: Mahoor Institute. MCD-572.  Released 2019.  https://www.mahoor.com/en

KOREA. Jindo Island-Funeral and Shamanic Chants.  Paris, France: OCORA (Office de Coopération Radiophonique)-Radio France.  C560271.  Released 2019.  https://www.radiofrance.fr/les-editions/editeurs/ocora-radio-france

KOREA. Pansori-Sugyeong-Nangja-Ga. World premiere of a p’ansori that had vanished from the repertoire and now reconstructed.  Vincennes France: Buda Musique.  Released 2019.  https://www.budamusique.com/en/

JOSQUIN des Prez (1450/1455-1521), and Noel BAULDEWEYN (1480-1513).  Missa Mater patris; Missa da pacem.  Tallis Scholars, directed by Peter Phillips.  Oxford, United Kingdom: Gimell Records. CDGIM-052. T he website has links to scores of the two masses. Released 2019. https://www.gimell.com/

LAMB, Catherine (born 1982).  Atmospheres Transparent/Opaque.  Brooklyn: New World Records.  80806.  Released 2019. 
http://www.newworldrecords.org

NETTI, Giorgio (born 1963).  Necessità d'interrogare il cielo. Patrick Stadler, solo soprano saxophone.  Vienna, Austria: Kairos Music. 0015058KAI.  Released 2019. 
https://www.kairos-music.com/ 

OBRECHT, Jacob (1457/8-1505).  Masses.  “Fortuna Desperata” and “Maria Zart.”  Beauty Farm: Bart Uvyn [countertenor], Jon Etxabe Arzuaga and Florian Schmitt [tenor], Joachim Höchbauer [bass].  Wien, Austria: Fra Bernardo. FB-1905157.  Two discs.  Released 2019. http://frabernardo.com 

OCKEGHEM, Johannes (c.1420-1497).  Complete Songs Volume 1. Blue Heron ensemble, directed by Scott Metcalfe.  West Newton, MA: Blue Heron Records. BHCD-1010.  Released 2019.  http://www.blueheron.org/

POMERIUM, directed by Alexander Blachly.  Musical Games of the Renaissance: A Century of Musical Ingenuity, 1410-1510.  Works by Isaac, Cordier, Busnoys, Anonymous, Du Fay, Ockeghem, Josquin, and from Regensburg 4307.  New York, NY: Old Hall Recordings.  Released 2019.
http://pomerium.us/?page_id=9

QUELL, Michael (born 1960).  Chamber Music-Volume 2.  Munich, Germany: NEOS Music.  NEOS-11904.  Released 2019. 
https://neos-music.com/

RIGBY, Joe (1940-2019). For Harriet, quartet with bagpipes, percussion, and drums.  First 50 copies included an additional disc of solo tenor and soprano saxophone and flute, More Music, recorded in November, 2009.  Joe Rigby was a remarkable saxophonist who made only a handful of recordings.  He influenced and performed with Milford Graves, and can be seen with him in a video on YouTube.  He also recorded with Steve Reid, and more recently with Ras Moshe.  France: Improvising Beings ib05/05ltd.  Label closed, albums out of print.  Released 2011.  Information: https://www.homeboymusic.co.uk/

RORE, Cipriano de (1516-1565).  Missa vivat felic Hercules & Motets. Weser-Renaissance Bremen, Conducted by Manfred Cordes.  Georgsmarienhütte, Germany: CPO Records.  777989-2.  Released 2019. 
https://www.chandos.net/

SANI, Nicola (born 1961).  Dove arrivano le nuvole più vaste. Roberto Fabbriciani-flute; Vidolin Alvise-electronics.  Milano, Italy: Stradivarius Records.  STR37120.  Released 2018.  https://www.stradivarius.it/index.php

TAYLOR, Cecil (1929-2018).  Mysteries: Untitled.  50 minutes of solo piano from 1976, previously unreleased in licensed form.  Tucson, AZ: Black Sun Music. 15049-2.  Released 2019.  http://www.harmonies.com/15046-2_Poschiavo/index.html

TIBET.  Tibet. “These recordings illustrate various facets of the religious activities of the Bonpos through their chant and their psalmodic recitation.”  Paris, France: OCORA (Office de Coopération Radiophonique)-Radio France. C-583016.  Released 2019. 
https://www.radiofrance.fr/les-editions/editeurs/ocora-radio-france

TRAVERSA, Martino (born 1960).  Hommage. Ensemble Prometeo, conducted by Marco Angius.  “He studied with Luigi Nono from 1987 to 1989.  In 1990, he founded and managed Ensemble Edgard Varèse, with Luigi Nono's support.  In 1991, he launched ‘Traiettorie,’ an international festival of modern and contemporary music.  In 1999, Martino Traversa founded the Prometeo Foundation, a resident laboratory of cultural activities, related to physiques, arts, and philosophy.”  Vienna, Austria: Kairos Music. 0015054KAI.  Released 2019. 
https://www.kairos-music.com/ 

VANDERMARK, Ken (born 1964).  Unexpected Alchemy.  Seven CDs. With John Butcher, Hamid Drake, Kent Kessler, Joe McPhee, Ikue More, Steve Noble, Eddie Prevost, Mette Rasmussen, John Tilbury, and Nate Wooley.  Solos (McPhee and Noble only, none by Vandermark), duos, trios, and quartets.  Recorded in 2017 and 2018. Krakow, Poland: Not Two Records. MW 993-2.  Released 2019. 
https://www.nottwo.com/

* * * * * * * * *

STEVE KOENIG
New York

PERFORMANCES: CONCERTS

Bill Frisell, guitar and bassist Thomas Morgan.  Catch them live, if you can, and on their two ECM releases.  Roulette, Brooklyn, NY.  billfrisell.com, thomasmorgan.net, roulette.org

Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn.  The Transitory Poems.  Piano duo by masters.  Roulette, Brooklyn NY.  vijay-iyer.com, roulette.org

Brandon Lopez, Steve Baczkowski, Gerald Cleaver.  “sun burns out your eyes trio and 4tet.”  Double bass, saxes, drums.  The second-set addition of synth didn’t add nor detract from the main trio’s work.  Roulette, Brooklyn NY.  roulette.org, brandonlopez.nyc, roulette.org  [See recordings, below.]

Sylvano Bussotti.  “The Music of Sylvano Bussotti (Notte Sylvana #2).”  Only sad I didn’t know about Night #1.  Frances-Marie Uitti, c; Nicholas Isherwood, b (voc); Luciano Chessa, p, pc; Nicket Hallett, voc; Zach Layrton, el g.  Including projections of some stunning graphic scores.  Roulette, Brooklyn, NY.  sylvanobussotti.org, roulette.org

Shayna Dulberger, bass.  “Active Projects.”  Three sets, three ensembles.  roulette.org/event/shayna-dulberger-active-projects/    

Richard Goode, piano.  Haydn: Variation in F minor.  Mozart: March in C Major, K. 408; Allemande in C minor, K. 399; Courante in E-flat Major, K. 399; Menuet in D Major, K. 355; Gigue in G Major, K. 574.  Beethoven: Sonata No. 26.  Janáček: In the Mist.  Chopin: Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op. 51; Four Mazurkas; Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49.  Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, NYC.  richardgoodepiano.com, pscny.org   

Juilliard String Quartet.  Haydn: Quartet in F Major, Op. 77/2; Bartók: Quartet No. 3; Beethoven: Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2.  Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, NYC.  juilliardstringquartet.org, pscny.org

Vadym Kholodenko, piano.  Medtner: Fairy Tales; Beethoven: Bagatelles, Op. 33; Rondo a capriccio, Op. 129; Godovsky: Studies on Chopin Etudes.  Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, NYC.  vadymkholodenko.com, pscny.org

Anaïs Maviel.  “Time is Due.”  Not ‘world music’ but music that encompasses the world.  Maviel, Chiquita Magic, Rema Hasumi, Shahzad Ismaily, Alexis Marcelo, Melvis Santa- all performers on vox, keys, percussion.  anaismaviel.com, roulette.org

Dianne McIntyre & Amina Claudine Meyers.  “If Not, When?”  The great choreographer with two other dancers weave with Myers’ riveting poetical singing/chanting.  Vision Festival 2019.  diannemcintyre.com, aminaclaudinemyers.com, artsforart.org

Tobias Picker.  Emmeline.  Manhattan School of Music, NYC.  Picker’s Americana opera brought to vivid life.  tobiaspicker.com, msmnyc.edu

Giacomo Puccini.  La Bohème.  The best Bohème I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard many.  Every main-role player was breath-taking as both singer and actor, except for a Mimì who didn’t impress me.  The real star, however, was the Met Opera Orchestra conducted by Marco Armiliato, whose lustrous textures and pointing clarified the score’s inclusion as true 20th Century music simultaneously being Romantic.  Metropolitan Opera, NYC.  metopera.org

Quatuor Danel. Beethoven: Quartet No. 6; Shostakovich: Quartet No. 6; Weinberg: Quartet No. 6.  I love their complete recordings of the complete Weinberg and complete Shostakovich quartets, and this concert confirmed their intellect and emotion.  Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, NYC. quatuordanel.eu, pscny.org


Resonant Bodies Festival 2019: Stephanie Blythe; Arooj Aftab with Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily; Erin Gee.  Blythe, a/k/a Blythely Oratonio and therefore not the famous singer, is a marvelous tenor/mezzo (how deliciously appropriate!) who stole the show with a musical sense of humor, going seamlessly from Verdi to Queen (the group) and back again in multigender garb.  Nonetheless, the marvelous Erin Gee continues to impress in the closer, from her series Mouthpiecesresonantbodiesfestival.org, erin-gee.com, roulette.org

Schlippenbach Trio.  Evan Parker, saxes; Alexander von Schlippenbach, p; Paul Lytton, perc.  Roulette, Brooklyn, NY.  avschlippenbach.comroulette.org

Skride Piano Quartet. Mahler: Piano Quartet in A minor; Mozart: Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K. 478; Brahms: Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25.  Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, Town Hall, NYC.  pscny.org, mkiartists.com/artists/skride-piano-quartet/

PERFORMANCES: THEATER

Beetlejuice: The Broadway Musical with music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect.  Never saw the film; who knew what delicious and adult delights awaited?  Winter Garden Theatre, NYC.  beetlejuicebroadway.com

Boesman and Lena by Athol Fugard.  The Signature Theatre, NY, continues its ongoing presentation of plays by the South African playwright.  As always, top-notch acting and directing.  signaturetheatre.org

Burn/This by Lanford Wilson.  The Hudson Theatre, NYC.   With Adam Driver and Keri Russell.  Adan Driver intense, as fits the part, but not stealing scenes.

The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth.  Brian D’Arcy James (Quinn), Emily Bergl (Amy).  Visceral immersion into the life and politics of an extended rural Irish family.  Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, NYC.

The Great Society by Robert Schenkkan.  Brian Cox becomes LBJ for the year leading up to his declining the nomination for a second term.  Excellent use of multimedia and actors playing many roles.  Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center, NYC.  robertschenkkan.com

Fefu And Her Friends by Maria Irène Fornés.  

Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally.  Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon bring this Broadway revival to vivid display of a tenuous romantic relationship.  Broadhurst Theatre, NYC.  terrencemcnally.com

Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare.  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.  shakespearesglobe.com

I Due Figaro.  Music by Saverio Marcadante, libretto by Felice Romani.  Delightful sequel to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, performed with panache.  Manhattan School Of Music, NYC.  msmnyc.edu

The Inheritance: Part One by Matthew Lopez.  Ethel Barrymore Theatre, NYC.  Three and a half hours go by in a blink in this riveting and moving, seriously funny tale of interconnected friendships, sex, love and HIV.   Can’t wait for Part Twotheinheritanceplay.com

Paul Taylor Dance Company.  “Celebrate The Dancemaker.”  Troilus and Cressida (reduced), Last Look, Beloved Renegade.  Lincoln Center, NYC.  ptamd.org

Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris.  Brilliant play, the title being a pun, about three pairs of interracial couples and how race informs their relationships.  One gasps in laughter and/or horror throughout.  Golden Theatre, NYC.  jeremyoharris.me

Why? written and directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne.   A funny and serious work about what theatre is for and the current and historical events interacting with theater.  Theatre For A New Audience, New York.  newspeterbrook.com, tfana.org

Young Man From Atlanta by Horton Foote.   Funny/sad Foote, as usual.  Revival of the 1995 Pulitzer winner for drama.  Signature Theatre, NYC.  signaturetheatre.org


RECORDINGS

J.S.Bach.  Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo.  Thomas Zehetmair plays Baroque violin on his second traversal of the S&P.  I haven’t heard the previous recording, but this new set has a flow and joy which draws you in; you enjoy rather than analyze.  ECM New Series 2551.   ecmrecords.com

Steve Baczkowski, Brandon Lopez, Chris Corsano.  Old Smoke.  Saxes, double bass and drums.  Proof that you can play “high energy” music without having always to be loud and fast, though they do that too.  Striking cover photo, too.  Relative Pitch RPR 1078.  relativepitchrecords.com, brandonlopez.nyc, cor-sano.com

Baczkowski, Lopex, Corsano, OldSmoke

The Beatles.  Abbey Road: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition.  2019 remix by Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell.   These Beatles remixes have been a delight for we fans, showing old favorites in a new light, by “simply” spotlighting certain strands which previously had been lost in the mix.  For example, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is not better than the original but very different, with the overwhelmingly wonderful white-noise whoosh at the end (when playing this, I always feel as if I’m drowning in the sea) lowered so that the guitar and drum strands and Billy Preston’s piano are in high relief.  Fans will need both original and 2019 editions.

The two CDs of studio outtakes, demos and alternates many fans will already have, but not with this sound quality.  The Blu disc holds this new 2019 stereo mix as well as the same in 5.1 surround, both high resolution, 96 kHz, 24-bit.  It’s silly that they didn’t also put the 2 CDs worth of outtakes on the Blu in Hi-Rez as well.  Of the seven vinyl and silver Abbey Roads in my collection, only the Mobile Fidelity LP comes close to the sonic clarity and frisson of this edition. Apple/Universal 0602577921124, 3 CDs, 1 Blu-Ray, 100-page hardcover book, 12x12” hard slipcase (which actually fits on LP shelves), 4 different glossy (but flimsy) picture sleeves which fit in pockets embedded in the inner book covers.  Oddly, no lyrics.  After this, you, unfortunately, will also feel the need to acquire the Super Deluxes of Sgt. P. and ‘The White Album.’  (Also available in a vinyl edition.)  thebeatles.com

Beethoven.  String Quartet 1-16; Grosse Fugue.  Guarneri String Quartet.  Recorded in the late 1960s, the Guarneris lay down a set of the Great 16 for RCA which are fluid, fun, emotional, hits all the right spots for a budget-box price.  A nice complement to my more contemporary favorites (Alexander II (Foghorn), Belcea and Artemis).  Red Seal/Sony (Europe) 19075971162.

Beethoven.  String Quartets 7 & 8 (“Rasumovsky” op. 59/1,2).  Quatuor Ébène.  In their series called “Beethoven Around The World,” this CD, labelled and recorded in “Vienna,” proves once again that the Ébène can excel in more than just Gallic works.  Erato 190295396022.   quatuorebene.com, erato.com

Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian.  When Will The Blues Leave.  Live in Italy, 1999, this well-known trio delivers a set with balls, not the often-wistful pastels they have sometimes offered.  ECM 2642.  ecmrecords.com.

Jaimie Branch.  Fly Or Die II: Bird Dogs Of Paradise.  I haven’t heard Volume 1 yet, but I’m sure going to.  I’ve been hearing trumpeter Branch in various ensembles lately and her playing has always stood out even with much better-known musicians, with a sound I can only describe as “proud,” and sometimes skittering.  The 12-minute “Prayer For Amerikka” reveals Branch to be a powerful writer and performer of vocal incantation as well as a master on trumpet, synths, and “sneaker squeaks.”   This CD would make an excellent listening-session pairing after Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.  International Anthem IARC0027.  jaimiebranch.com, intlanthem.com

Danish String Quartet.  “Prism II.”  Schnittke: SQ3.  Beethoven: SQ13.  Bach: Fugue in B minor.   The Bach a charming aperitif, the Schnittke perfectly ferocious, the Beethoven simultaneously sighing and frolicking until the Grosse Fugue does the same thing in a more Schnittke-like attitude.  ECM New Series 2562.  danishquartet.com, ecmrecords.com

Tylor Ho Bynum 9-tette.  The Ambiguity Manifesto.  Squiggly, slinky, sexy numbers thanks to musicians Bill Lowe, Jim Hobb, Ingrid Laubrock, Ken Filiano, Tomas Fujiawara, Mary Halvorson, and Tomeika Reid.  Firehouse 12 FH12-04-08-032.  firehouse12.com, taylorhobynum.com

Chick Corea Trio.  Trilogy 2.  With bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade.  A totally swinging (even the slower ones) compilation of performances from around the world.  Stretch/Concord Jazz CJA-35685-02.  concord.com/labels/concord-jazz/, chickcorea.com

Moppa Elliott.  Jazz Band/ Rock Band/ Dance Band.  The MOPDtK bassist’s triumphant triple of all-original compositions in various styles, cleverly arranged, and with three different small ensembles, which variously include Jon Irabagon, Ava Mendez, Sam Kulik, Ron Stabinsky (whose solo piano disc made my list last year), David Taylor, and Mike Pride.  Hours of pure joy.   Hot Cup 888295840552, 3 CDs.  moppaelliott.com

Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda.  Four.  A superb session by the piano/bass (and flute) duo, their second CD and just as strong.  Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura joins of two of the seven tracks, including the hypnotic 22-minute “Stars In Complete Darkness.”  Long Song LSRCD151/2019. satokofujii.com, joefonda.com, natsukitamura.com, longsongrecords.com

Satoko Fujii, Joe Fonda, Gianni Mimmo.  Triad.  The above duo is joined by soprano saxophonist Gianno Mimmo, recorded in Milano on Fujii 59th birthday, and released as part of her 60th anniversary 12-album, month-by-month, release.  There’s the expansive 40-minute “Birthday Girl,” but perhaps even more delicious are the shorter, witty-as-their titles “No More Bugs” and “Joe Melts The Water Boiler.”  satokofujii.com, joefonda.com, natsukitamura.com, longsongrecords.com

Gesualdo.  Madrigali, Libri Primo e Secondo.  Les Arts Florissants, Paul Agnew.  Ravishingly beautiful voices, all in the service of the texts.  Booklet with Italian text and translations in English, French and German, intelligently laid out.  Superb engineering.  Harmonia Mundi HAF 8905307.08, 2-CD twofer.  

Rhiannon Gidens
Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi.  There Is No Other.  Now I hear what all the fuss is about this North Carolinian.  What a wonderful voice and perfect delivery of Appalachian and other folk ballads.  Recorded in Dublin.  The 2-LP version, which I haven’t heard, has four extra tracks.  Nonesuch 591336-2.  rhiannongiddens.com, nonesuch.com

Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 8: Recordings 1954:2013.  Schoenberg, Berg, Webern.  This well-annotated 12-CD box contains eight discs of Arnie, and two each of Anton and Alban.  Gielen’s expertise in this music is marvelous, and although the audio quality varies depending upon date of recording, this is the most satisfying collection of the Second Viennese School since the magical four-disc Ernest Bour set from Astrée in 1991, which has one disc of Bartók.  Also not to be missed is the four-disc RIAS Second Viennese School Project 1945-1965 on the Audite label.  Gielen died this year and will be sorely missed.  SWR Music SWR19063CD.  swrmusic.de  

Iro Haarla’s Around Again.  The Music of Carla Bley.  Haarla, piano; Ulf Krokfors, bass; and drummer Barry Altschul, drums.  The album starts out very easy going, but Bley’s compositions always hold one’s attention.  Higher octane builds with each track, including some of Bley’s “greatest hits” like “King Corn,” “Ida Lupino,” and “And Now, The Queen.”   TUM CD 054.  tumrecords.comirohaarla.net

Jimi Hendrix Experience.  Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition.   Hardback large-format, 48-page book with pockets containing the 2019 remaster CD and CD of early takes called “At Last … the Beginning: The Early Takes” demos which Hendrix recorded on his own Teac in his NY hotel, plus Blu-Ray (the latter in 5.1 surround and 96 kHz, 24-bit; documentary “At Last … the Beginning, The Making Of Electric Ladyland” which has been expanded by 40 minutes; demos), with sparklingly clear audio.  This is the best in detail, clarity and soundstage this magical album has ever sounded, both CD and Blu.  Add to this another CD, “Live at the Hollywood Bowl.”  The book contains lots of photos, essays, and Jimi’s handwritten lyrics.  Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy 190758590228.  (Also available in a vinyl edition.)  jimihendrix.com

Jimi Hendrix and Band of Gypsies.  Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts.  Five sets, New Year’s Eve 1969 and the following night.  New mixes by Eddie Kramer.  I confess BoG is not my favorite Hendrix, but this remains fascinating.  Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy 19075982772.  5 CD or 8 LP.  jimihendrix.com

Heinz Holliger, oboe.  Zwiegespräche.   The title translates as “Dialogues.”  Many brief and exquisite works, many in memoriam, all by Holliger or by Gyorgy Kurtág, most for oboe solo.  Whether wistful in aspect or using extended techniques, all are worthy of repeated close listening.  HH, ob, Eng hn, p; Marie-Lise Schüpbach, Eng hn, ob; Sarag Wegener, soprano; Ernesto Molinari, b cl, contrabass cl.   ecmrecords.com

Chrissie Hynde and the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble.  How Glad I Am.  The versatile singer (The Pretenders, etc.) turns in a clever set of standards interspersed with this moody (but not jazz) ensemble’s instrumental tales on jazz classics such as Mingus’ “Meditation On A Pair Of Wirecutters” and Coltrane’s “Naima.”  Very clever album art in the style of 1960s classic Columbia Brubeck and Mingus covers.  BMG 538504482.  chrissiehynde.com

Keith Jarrett.  Munich 2016.  This solo concert starts out deliciously abstract, working its way through many styles including stride, but it’s all clearly Keith Jarrett, but totally fresh.  Dessert is three encores of standards.  ECM 2667/68, 2 CDs.  ecmrecords.com

Konstrukt + Ken Vandermark.  Kozmik Bazaar This Turkish free-jazz ensemble joins the omnipresent saxophonist on an exciting 31-minute excursion.  Karlrecords KR065.  karlrecords.net, kenvandermark.com

Erich Korngold.  Symphony.  Theme and Variations.  Straussiana Sinfonia of London, cond. John Wilson.  The main course here is the 45-minute Symphony.  The composer of scores for such classic films as The Sea Hawk and The Adventures of Robin Hood here offers lots of excitement rather than schmaltz in this work composed twenty years after the films mentioned above.  Chandos CHSA 5220, hybrid SACD.  chandos.net

Jeanne Lee with Ran Blake.  The Newest Sound You Never Heard: European Recordings 1966/1967.  Newly unearthed Belgian broadcast masters studio of the lamented singer with the underpraised, savory pianist.  A real treat.  A-Side Records 0005, 2 CDs.  ranblake.com, necmusic.com

Charles Mingus.  Mingus Ah Um. Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs MFSL UDSACD 2208, hybrid SACD, limited to 3,000 numbered copies.  An aside: Decades ago, when I worked in Doubleday Books’ Record Dept., frequently customers would ask if I could recommend a jazz album for someone who didn’t know anything about jazz.  I lived dangerously, telling them to buy Mingus Ah Um and if they didn’t like it, I’d refund their money.  Over 20 sold, no returns.

This 2019 remastering of the 1959 Mingus classic has sound very different from the 1998 Columbia/Legacy reissue.  Fans will need to have both.  The MoFi has opened up the soundstage, every instrument clear and individual.  You lean your head to take in all those instruments.  The Columbia is tighter, more solid; it wraps its arms around you.  Taking “Fables Of Faubus” as our specimen, the Columbia sounds as if it was recorded in a cozy room, where the MoFi sounds like a much larger space.  Both editions are painfully shy on bass, but in “Faubus” the Columbia’s bass is firmer, the MoFi is more resonant; you can hear the wood and the slap in the bass.  The same goes for “Jelly Roll.”  The Columbia features three bonus tracks totaling 15 minutes.  mofi.com

Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux.  Path of Tonality.  The saxist/composer presents six delicious tracks of jazz, using David Binney (saxes), Matt Mitchell (piano, keybs), Nate Wood (drums), Kenny Wollensen (drums, Wollensonic percussion) plus guest artists, delivering fascinating compositions, some incorporating analog synthesizers (never kitsch).  Totally original and deeply satisfying.  Whirlwind WR4733.  whirlwindrecordings.com, quinsin.com

Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark.  Screen Off.  The percussion/sax duo offers a 21-part suite (collection?), each approximately two minutes, which allows you (and them) to concentrate your listening.  PNL Records PNL041.  paalnilssen-love.com, kenvandermark.com

Larry Ochs, Nels Cline, Gerald Cleaver.  What Is to Be Done.  A pair of 20-minute high energy pieces surround a six-minute palate cleanser.  The sax (tenor, sopranino)-electric guitar-drums combo is felicitous to the ear.  Clean Feed CF500CD.  cleanfeed-records.com, ochs.cc, nelscline.com

Ake ParmerudÅke Parmerud.  Zeit aus Zeit.  Mirage.  Rituals.  The Norwegian composer probably best known for his electroacoustic works presents three here.  Cikada is always a fine indicator of good repertoire and performances.  Kenneth Karlsson, p; Bjørn Rabben, perc; Cikada ensemble.  Lawo LWC 1161.  59:57.  lawo.no, parmerud.com, cikada.no

Marc Ribot & Friends.  Songs Of Resistance 1942-2018.  International songs of freedom, with vocalists such as Fay Victor, Tom Waits, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, and Syd Straw.  Proceeds to benefit The Indivisible Project.  Anti- 87604-2.  indivisible.org, marcribot.com, anti.com

Matana Roberts CoinCoin Memphis

Matana Roberts.  Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis.   The musician/composer/poet/artist (check out her graphic scores on her website) continues her run of masterpieces, a word I don’t use lightly, in this fourth of her Coin Coin project, which she calls “panoramic sound quilting.”  It’s rare to find text so well-integrated into music, although music is the majority of sound here.  This tentet includes trombonist Steve Swell and percussionist Ryan Sawyer (vibes, drums, bells, jaw harp).  Add oud and fiddle, among other instruments, to create a magical mélange of sound.  If you see she’s performing in your hometown, pounce!  Constellation CST145.  cstrecords.com, matanaroberts.com

Nino Rota.  The Fellini Album: Music For The Films of Federico Felllini.  26 short titles taken from Amarcord, 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, and suites from I Clowns and I Casanova.  So much more than salon or soundtrack music.  Filarmonica della Scala, cond. Riccardo Chailly.  Decca deccaclassics.com, filarmonica.it, riccardochailly.com  

Robert Schumann.  Myrthen.  Song cycle, Books 1-4.  Christian Gerhaher, baritone; Camilla Tilling, soprano; Gerold Huber, piano.  Gerhaher is one of my favorite male singers.  (Get his 13-CD Sony budget box The Art of Song: Lieder Edition, which ranges from Haydn to Schubert, Mahler and Schoenberg.)  Sony Classical G0100040625138.  sonyclassical.com (which, to their detriment, hasn’t been updated for at least three years.)

Dmitri Shostakovich.  String Quartets Nos. 2, 7, 8.  Pavel Haas Quartet.  Passionate, riveting performances in fine sound.  Many find the PHSQ’s tone often grating, which I instead find to be grinding; I find it so only when the music calls for it, as it does in some parts of some of these quartets.  Supraphon SU 4271-2.  supraphon.com, pavelhaasquartet.com

Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell.  The Adornment of Time.  The drummer and the pianist interweave their playing, sometimes in reference to each other and sometimes in contrast, in this 65-minute live performance from NYC’s The Kitchen.  Excellent audio quality.  Pi PI83.  tyshawnsorey.com, marilyncrispell.com, pirecordings.com

Alister Spence, composer.  Imagine Meeting You Here Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe.  Five-part suite for jazz orchestra, done to perfection by one of Fujii’s several long-term orchestras.  No dull spots.  Alister Spence Music ASM008.  alisterspence.comsatokofujii.com

Steve Swell. Music for Six MusiciansSteve Swell.  Music for Six Musicians: Hommage á Olivier Messiaen.  An extended (78-minute) mostly-composed piece inspired by but not imitating the French composer, with a fab sextet including violinist Jason Kao Hwang and Rob Brown on alto.  Silkheart SHCD 161.  silkheart.se, steveswell.com

Jacky Terrasson.  53.  Sylvain Romano, b; Thomas Bramerie, b; Gregory Hutchinson, dr; Lukmil Perez, dr.  No showboating here, just two trios, sixteen tracks, each about four minutes, satisfying as a winter stew.  Blue Note 0808196.  jackyterrasson.com, bluenote.com

Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia.  La misteriosa musica della Regina Loana.   The great Italian saxophonist encounters a wonderful accordion player.  ECM 2652.  gianluigitrovesi.com, ecmrecords.com

Sándor Veress.  String Trio.  Béla Bartók.  Piano Quintet.  Barnabás Kelemen, Vilde Frang, Katalin Kokas, Nicolas Altstaedt and Alexander Lonquich.  Both pieces start off, considering each one’s date, on the Romantic side, but end off going wild, the Bártók folklorically so, the Veress echt modern.  Alpha 458.  outhere-music.com/en/labels/alpha





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