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S. Harris (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 16, 2017
The ever-glamorous great-great-grand-daughter of the author of War And Peace claims a Swedish heart and a Russian soul, and has recorded albums with those titles to prove it. Since then she’s most often been heard singing with her life partner, pianist Jacob Karlzon, but she has chosen a guitar trio format for this album of theme songs. Guest stars Iiro Rantala on piano and Nils Landgren on trombone flesh out the lush opener, ‘Calling You’ from the 1987 movie Baghdad Cafe. ‘Marlowe’s Theme’ from Farewell My Lovely has a neat solo from Rantala while guitarist Krister Jonsson really comes into his own when he switches to electric rock guitar – for example on Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ from Batman Forever.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 09, 2017
The title implies a haunted existence – by whom or by what we cannot tell from the imploring nature of this collection of often lengthy jazz instrumentals, some murky and meandering (‘Abandoned Reminder’, ‘The Great Silence’) and others quirky and upbeat (‘New Glory’). Taborn and crew tentatively explore a musical netherworld, here and there casting light into the shadows – ‘Ancient’, for example, opens with an extended, almost inarticulate bass solo, before other instruments reluctantly enter the fray. The repeated, intensifying figures near the end of this piece do achieve an intellectual resolution, if not an emotional one, while the sweetly mournful ‘Jamaican Farewell’ has the listless ambience of a sailing venture undertaken on a nearly windless morning. ‘Phantom Ratio’ follows a similar trajectory, while ‘The Shining One’ provides a bumpier ride.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 02, 2017
This collaboration with Sylvain Luc, André Ceccarelli, and Philippe Aerts delivers nearly 90 minutes of traditional French jazz – by definition, a genre featuring virtuoso accordion playing in every piece. What fun it is – mostly upbeat, very energetic, and totally engaging. The rollicking title track sets the tone for what proves to be a wide-ranging musical tour – from moody (‘Giselle’, ‘Nice Blues’, ‘Ballade Pour Marion’ and ‘Love Day’) to exhilarating (‘Fou Rire’, ‘Waltz For Nicky’ and ‘Viaggio’) to dramatic (‘Azul Tango’). This album achieves the near impossible in that every track – and there are 18 – is excellent, and the recording quality consistently excellent too.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 11, 2017
This is an intended celebration of the music of Clara Schumann – five pieces – and the Schumanns’ relationship with the young Brahms, represented here by his Op. 9 Variations (where Sasaki is quite outclassed by Barry Douglas on Chandos). So why is the young Japanese-American pianist’s debut recital entitled Obsidian? Because it includes a seven-part dramatic piece, Obsidian Liturgy, composed for her last year by Max Grafe – 2016 marking 140th/160th anniversaries of the Schumanns’ deaths. As a private gesture, fine, but 10.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 04, 2017
A couple of years ago I heard this young German-Canadian cellist playing the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata at the Festival Hall in partnership with the composer – it was a pianola recital, I hasten to add! Here he’s with a congenial Russian pianist and they complete their sonatas programme with three transcriptions: Vocalise, a movement from Cinderella and a Scriabin Romance originally for horn. Prokofiev’s sonata met with state sanction and was premiered by Rostropovich/Richter in 1950 (EMI 5 720162 2 has that recording). It gets a fine reading here, as does the Rachmaninov, although Isserlis and Hough on Hyperion are even more inside the soul of the music. The Pentatone recording gives a rich cello sound, set forward and left of centre, with the piano just a little too distantly balanced to the right.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 28, 2017
The genesis of this release seems to hark back to 2004, when Neil Young remastered these tracks from his back-catalogue using the HDCD encoding he’d been favouring in the studio for almost a decade. Alongside it, there was also a 96kHz/24-bit release on DVD-Audio (remember DVD-A?), with Young hailing the format as ‘the difference between a true reflection of the music and a mere replica’. ‘I’ve always been a strong believer in analogue and this is about as close to the rewarding listening experience of vinyl as the real thing’, he added. Now the cynic night say ‘yes, but you also said that about Pono, Neil, and whatever happened to that?’.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 21, 2017
Possibly all you need to know about this album is that ‘Glauco Venier plays sonorous sculptures built by the artists Harry Bertoja and Giorgio Celiberti’, so if that description sets you up to expect something extremely arty, you’re definitely on the right track. In fact Venier plays piano, gongs, bells and metals on this programme of self-composed pieces and reinterpretations of pieces from the classical canon, and the result falls somewhere between delicately contemplative and a harmless wash of sound that passes the listener by. Part of the reason is that much of the content here sounds very similar, and one really needs to work hard to hear the shimmers of percussion and the like behind the piano figures. It’s all very subtle and precise and beautifully recorded, as PM notes in his lab report [below], but I’m just not sure it’ll bear repeated listening.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 14, 2017
Arguably better known for her classical operatic roles (though her farewell stage performance was in 2013), French soprano Natalie Dessay here chooses 11 jazz standards and well-worn – nearly all intimate – songs from musicals. A Deluxe Edition (limited territories only) has a second part where she acts as narrator for sparse musical equivalents composed by Graciane Finzi to eight paintings by Edward Hopper. That version ends with Barber’s Adagio and which, since WW2, has remained an emblematic piece for America. You don’t get, or need the words here, for Dessay’s American is completely idiomatic.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 07, 2017
‘Shavings from the master’s work bench. ’ The Argentinian pianist kicks this cliché into touch and his account of the last set of Bagatelles, beautifully timed to highlight every facet, is perhaps the best we’ve had. You wonder if Beethoven pondered their suitability for expansion – this was his last piano opus. Goerner’s Hammerklavier impresses in its outer movements, with majesty in the first (repeat taken) and torrential in the 238 risoluto bars of finale counterpoint.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 31, 2017
Guitarist Eric Johnson says of this album, ‘With EJ, I just decided to be more honest with myself and everybody, and show more of my personal side. ’ Which is all well and good, and the result has a certain homespun charm with a feeling of the artist sitting in his own studio, noodling his way through some standards and some self-written tunes, both solo guitar pieces and songs. However, anyone expecting much sign of Johnson’s past catalogue might be disappointed in this all-acoustic set, which is winsome at best: it opens with a cover of ‘Mrs Robinson’ and continues in a similar vein. Taking on board PM’s comments about the sources of the material here, it sounds respectable enough in a very detailed audiophile kind of way, but it’s all rather uninteresting, sounding like music for hi-fi show demonstrations rather than anything able to withstand repeated listening.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 24, 2017
Yotam Silberstein is said to have honed his guitar-playing by practicing during his period of national service in the Israeli army, but this fifth album, as the title suggests, is more a celebration of his life in the New York jazz community, and the influences on his work. It’s his first self-produced album, too, and while that might make one dread a set of complete self-indulgence, it doesn’t quite turn out like that. Yes, Silberstein is front and centre, but more impressive is the way he fits into the band on this set – Reuben Rogers on bass, Aaron Goldberg on piano and drummer Greg Hutchinson. But this is undeniably Silberstein’s album, and he can show his talents on tracks such as ‘O Vôo Da Mosca’.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 17, 2017
Recorded in Paris in late 2015, this album by Israeli trumpeter Borochov has something of the life-story about it for even if the Middle Eastern sound is only really explicit in one track, the appropriately-titled ‘Eastern Lullaby’, there are hints of cultural fusion in other tracks. Surrounded by his tight four-piece band – his brother Avri on bass, Michael King on piano and Jay Sawyer on (decidedly punchily-recorded) drums and percussion – Borochov turns in performances showing his virtuosity and musicianship in equal part. It’s beautifully recorded, though I have some qualms with the fact the star turn is so relentlessly spotlit in the mix. Personally, I’d have preferred more sense of the ensemble playing together, rather than just providing the supporting act.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 10, 2017
192kHz/24-bit, ALAC, FLAC; Linn CKD521 (supplied by www. linnrecords. com) Robin Ticciati’s R&J or the Andrew Davis/Chandos [HFN Feb ’17]? The Swedish brass is leaner than the BBC SO’s and Chandos made more of the antiphonally set second violins. But the Linn has more dramatic light and shade, and a natural concert hall balance.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 03, 2017
I’m not exactly sure ultimate fidelity was the aim of this great set, recorded ‘fast and dirty’ at West London’s British Grove Studios, with occasional drop-ins by passing musicians – Eric Clapton on a couple of tracks – and accomplished add-ons of the calibre of Darryl Jones on bass. Rather the intention was to return to the band’s roots, paying tribute to some of the artists influential in their early days: the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, both of whom get more than a nod here. The familiarity with the material shows in confidence and swagger: rough round the edges this may be, but there’s an excitement and vitality about the music-making you may not expect from septuagenarian white boys, with Jagger in very fine voice (and harp) indeed, and Keef as laconic as ever, yet equally always ready with the killer riff. Lovely stuff.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jun 26, 2017
He’s done the lutes, he’s done the concept album, and now Mr Sumner delivers perhaps the most down-the-line rock album of his solo career. It’s not quite as rootsy as one might expect, despite the road-trippy ‘Heading South On The Great North Road’: the album takes its title from the New York studio where it was recorded, after all. Yes, this outing by the Englishman in New York is occasionally overblown and stodgy, though that kind of goes with the ‘rediscovering one’s inner rocker’ genre, but when it’s good it harks back to the glory days of early Police tracks, which is no bad thing. The sound, while dense in places, has decent clarity, with of course the voice front and centre, but there’s nothing much here to challenge a high-res audio system, and frankly the ‘issues’ tackled here seem somewhat predictable, from refugees to the plight of the ageing rocker.

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