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B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 12, 2018
Fifty minutes of Charlie Parker’s hard bop could induce trepidation in some listeners, but that’s not what this intriguing collection is all about. Instead of Parker retreads or outtakes, it’s an assortment of all-star reinterpretations of Bird’s compositions, some of them superbly soulful and engaging (Madeleine Peyroux’s opener, for example) and others requiring true-believer enthusiasm for bebop (Barbara Hannigan’s ‘Epitaph Of Charlie Parker’, Jeffrey Wright’s ‘So Long’). The band features veterans from David Bowie’s Blackstar, with Craig Taborn on keyboards and musicianship is beyond reproach, as is the recording quality. This album will grab your attention – listen to it once, then maybe via the ‘random play’ function on your player.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab  |  Mar 05, 2018
There’s a beguiling immature quality in Ariel Pocock’s voice – she’s in her mid-twenties but sounds much younger – that contrasts with the sophistication of her musical arrangements and the band backing her on this recording. Her vocalisations evoke a sweet innocence that older jazz singers can’t and shouldn’t try to imitate. The title track comes off almost like a college girl’s improvisation-on-the-spot – a really good one that succeeds so well it surprises even its creator. Amusingly, she tackles more than she can handle with Cole Porter’s ‘So In Love’, but it’s a valiant attempt, and the extended instrumental break is wonderful.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 26, 2018
The album title refers to oboist Nicholas Daniel’s teacher Janet Craxton, whose London Oboe Quartet premiered the Knussen Cantata, Op. 15, and Françaix’s Cor Anglais Quartet here. Besides the familiar Mozart Qt, there’s a completion of his fragment K580a, Adagio For English Horn, and – not mentioned in the booklet – a bonus track, Colin Matthews’ arrangement of Schumann’s song ‘Mondnacht’. It is a programme of extremely wide contrasts – the Mozart classic fresh as new paint, the Françaix (Daniel playing a cor anglais) the epitome of Twenties Gallic sophistication and the Britten precociously clever (he was 19).
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 19, 2018
Her breathy contralto and big compositions have long been the core of Diana Krall’s appeal, but this release goes in a sadly soporific direction. Her band almost starts swinging on a handful of tracks, including ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’, but it’s more tease than fulfilment. ‘Sway’ has huge interpretive potential, but here it’s given a ponderously intimate treatment loaded down by an overproduced cinematic ending. Krall’s singing isn’t quite up to the fine standard she’s set over the decades: frequently awkward phrasing made more apparent by shortness of breath on sustained notes, all while keeping the dynamic lid on tight.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 12, 2018
This programme by a Belgian piano trio which debuted in 2011 contrasts those by Shostakovich, written (No 1) as a teenager, the other during the war years. His contemporary Sergei Prokofiev is represented by the Cinq Mélodies, ‘songs without words’, revised in 1925 for violin and piano, and the early Ballade for cello and piano. It’s quite a shock to hear this flamboyant music after the introversion of the Shostakovich masterpiece (especially as the transfer levels leap up for the duos!). Reconstructed from incomplete parts, Trio No1 is a competent essay but the step to the cello’s harmonics opening No 2 is to move to another artistic world altogether.
S. Harris (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 05, 2018
Having scored her biggest international hit with her 2010 album Same Girl [ACT 9024-2], the South Korean-born singing star takes a new direction with this one – her ninth (and fourth for ACT) – recorded at Sear Sound, New York, in Dec ’16, and produced/arranged by keyboard wiz Jamie Saft – he’s also co-writer with Vanessa Saft of track 3, ‘Too Late’. Youn Sun Nah opens with her own five-minute ‘Traveller’, a characteristic blend of strength and melancholy, and goes on to offer an eclectic choice of covers, all beautifully done. Marc Ribot contributes brilliantly to several tracks, with electric and acoustic guitars, from the fast-moving Paul Simon song that’s the title tune to perfect Staples/Al Green funk on Lou Reed’s ‘Teach The Gifted Children’ and a majestic reading of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Drifting’. It’s a great album with great sound too.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 29, 2018
The Brodbeck trio is a group at the peak of its considerable artistic power. This hour-long instrumental expedition opens with three densely orchestrated, upbeat, and engaging pieces (‘Ich Will Meine Seele Tachen’, ‘Im Strom Der Gezeitzen’ and ‘The Night Comes Soon’) then takes a contemplative detour with ‘Song For The Ancestors’ and the languorous ‘Brahms Ballad’. An extended bass solo in ‘Juno Is Touching Down’ leads to a compellingly rhythmic, melodically forthright section that in turn ushers in a sweet piano passage in ‘Return/No Return’. The punchy ‘Rocka-Roas’ showcases the trio’s interplay, running the gamut from fascinating to maddening with a repeated figure near the end.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 22, 2018
Rarely heard live today, these colourful scores by Manuel de Falla have been ‘demonstration disc’ material, right from the early days of LP. Indeed, classic versions were recorded under Ernest Ansermet – his Three-Cornered Hat is still on Speakers Corner 180g vinyl. Falla described Nights (one of Arthur Rubinstein’s favourites) as ‘symphonic impressions’, a better way to think of it than as a piano concerto. The pianist here (married to Kent Nagano) is set rather forward, but so was de Larrocha [Decca].
J. Black (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 15, 2018
For me, blues has become increasingly a turgid art form, endlessly regurgitating its past, rarely daring to look ahead. Chicago-born, but raised in Colorado, Otis Taylor is a glorious exception to the rule. As a child he focused on banjo, which very probably saved him from learning the same guitar cliches as most bluesmen, and this album is a joy from start to finish, as he explores the true potential of the music he clearly loves. It’s not just that his guitar and banjo playing is tight, precise and terse, but that each note is absolutely right for the space it occupies.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 08, 2018
‘World Music’ is a catch-all genre covering a wide and deep territory and Mali In Oak is among the best of the cultural hybrid variety. This gloriously happy blend of traditional Malian music is updated and westernised by performers who themselves are cross-cultural phenoms, including kora player Tunde Jegede, of Nigerian/Irish ancestry, and South African guitarist Derek Gripper. Gripper manages to interpolate melodies for the 21-string kora to the six-string western classical guitar, and also to accompany the kora when used as a lead instrument. This album is the first recording by the pair, and their interplay is marvellous to experience – simultaneously serene, contemplative, and uplifting.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2018
The emotional tenor of this journeyman jazz ensemble ranges from joyous and celebratory, as in the title track, to imploring (‘No. 9’, ‘Lycklig Resa’), to near-rock frenetic (‘Bullet Train’) to insistently screechy (‘The Poet’). Among the eleven tracks are a few that touch on all these (‘Song For Jorgen’), then there’s the mysteriously compelling ‘Dance Of Masja’. Capable of swinging hard or taking it easy, Lundgren and bandmates Jukka Perko, Dan Berglund and Morten Lund are never far from moody traditional late-night musings (‘Never Too Late’), nor are they strangers to extended improvisation (‘Twelve Tone Rag’).
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 25, 2017
Still thriving, Bologna’s Accademia Filharmonica was opened in 1666: a magnet for aspiring composers and performers. This (appropriately) 66m selection of unfamiliar concertos and sinfonias spans from primarily vocal 17th-century composers – Colonna, Perti – to followers whose music was exclusively instrumental. Director Julia Schröder proves well able to meet the technical demands of the ornate decoration in the violin concertos, and while a lot of this music will only interest the specialist collector, works such as Zavateri’s ‘A tempesta di mare’ or the dramatic first section of Perti’s Sinfonia ‘Gesù al sepolcro’ are worth investigating. As are Laurenti’s four-movement Violin Concerto and the anonymous galant tribute to Bologna’s patron saint Petronius.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 18, 2017
96kHz & 192kHz/24-bit, ALAC/FLAC*; Linn CKD552 (supplied by www. linnrecords. com) The previous UK Soldier’s Tale with an actress narrating (Glenda Jackson) was disastrously cast with Nureyev as the Soldier. Here Harriet Walter does a terrific job of the Flanders/Black English translation while composers Harrison Birtwistle and George Benjamin play respectively the Soldier and Devil.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 11, 2017
This set by German saxophonist Weidner is just one of a growing number of titles available on highresaudio. com both in straight FLAC and also in MQA, more or less halving the file size. I also tried it with my Meridian Explorer 2 DAC into the system, and can confirm that the MQA process proves entirely transparent, the ‘folded’ version sounding just like the bulkier FLAC files. The music itself, played by Christian Weidner with his quartet partners Achim Kaufmann on piano, Henning Sieverts on bass, and Samuel Rohrer on drums, is either endlessly inventive or a series of squeaks and parps, depending on your view of the freer end of the jazz spectrum.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 04, 2017
This contemporary jazz release covers a wide territory – the title track which opens the album is a sort of exposition with a restless introspective quality that draws the listener in, provoking without providing resolution. The questioning continues with each succeeding track – from the hesitant, semi-morose ‘Intensive Care’ to the almost-uplifting ‘Triad Song’ and ambling ‘Wolfgang’s Waltz’. Most pieces here are lengthy, taking their time to roll out, but all have the sense of being fully developed compositions rather than improvisational exercises. Performances are moderately paced and melodically engaging, but sacrifice emotional engagement for intellectual stimulation.