Sunday, December 27, 2009
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In this year-end show I revisited several new CDs I have featured over the past few months. All of these are discussed in recent posts.
Anouar Brahem: The Astounding Eyes of Rita
Arvo Part: In Principio
Toumani Diabate: The Mande Variations
Jon Hassell: Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street
Wendy Sutter: Songs and Poems for Solo Cello by Philip Glass
Valentin Silvestrov: Misterioso
Monday, December 14, 2009
Anouar Brahem, The Gryphon Trio, and Lou Harrison: Playlist for The Open Window for December 14 and 17, 2009
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Lou Harrison: Bell Bowls from La Koro Sutro (New Albion)
Lou Harrison was a 20th century American composer with a passion for the gamelan music of Java and Bali, and he incorporated many of those sounds and textures into his music. I opened the show with this percussion piece played by William Wynant.
Anouar Brahem: The Lover of Beirut, Dance with Waves, Stopover at Djibouti, and The Astounding Eyes of Rita, from The Astounding Eyes of Rita (ECM )
Anouar Brahem is a celebrated player of Arabic classical music in his home country of Tunisia, and a tireless experimenter and collaborator to the point where it is often hard to say where North Africa leaves off and Europe begins in this spare, dignified, detailed music. For the past few decades he has divided his time between Tunisia and France and played, composed, taught... and worked with all manner of musicians as well as poets and dancers.
Think about the instruments in this quartet: oud, bass clarinet, bass, bendir and darbouka (those are North African hand drums). The result is elegant, exotic, low-toned, and full of feeling for deserts and cities.
The album is titled after a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, a revered poet of Palestine who died last year (photo to the right, just below). Here is the poem:
Between Rita and my eyes
There is a rifle
And whoever knows Rita
Kneels and plays
To the divinity in those honey-colored eyes
And I kissed Rita
When she was young
And I remember how she approached
And how my arm covered the loveliest of braids
And I remember Rita
The way a sparrow remembers its stream
Between us there are a million sparrows and images
And many rendevous
Fired at by a rifle
Rita's name was a feast in my mouth
Rita's body was a wedding in my blood
And I was lost in Rita for two years
And for two years she slept on my arm
And we made promises
Over the most beautiful of cups
And we burned in the wine of our lips
And we were born again
What before this rifle could have turned my eyes from yours
Except a nap or two or honey-colored clouds?
Once upon a time
Oh, the silence of dusk
In the morning my moon migrated to a far place
Towards those honey-colored eyes
And the city swept away all the singers
Between Rita and my eyes
Mozart: Trio in G movements 1 and 2 (performed by the Gryphon
Trio) from Mozart Trios (Analekta)
Toronto's Gryphon Trio is Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin), Roman Borys (cello), and Jamie Parker (piano).
Sunday, December 6, 2009
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Glen Velez: Webs from Rhythms of the Chakras (Sounds True)
Glen Velez is a Mexican-American percussionist who specializes in frame drums. On this album he plays the bodhran and the North African bendir, adding small percussion and the occasional voice and strings. I saw him live once and he related to the audience so beautifully-- he educated and inspired us. This CD has seven pieces, each corresponding with each chakra or centre of energy in the body. Glen Velez is one of the percussionists on the CD by Paul Winter, below.
Paul Winter: various tracks from Prayer for the Wild Things (Living Music)
I usually would not play Paul Winter on my show because he is too new age/ smooth jazz for me, but this CD is an exception. It features a 12-piece band (with interesting wind instruments like the heckelphone and contra-bass clarinet) along with the recorded sounds of 24 birds and animals from the Rocky Mountains. Also, Arlie Nesahi and the White Eagle Singers are on a couple of tracks.
Many of the songs are dedicated to, and evoke, specific animals. Grizzly Bear Cubs features the cello of Eugene Friesen, and Moose Walk is soloed by the contra-bass clarinet of Dennis Smylie.
There are bird sounds-- song birds and large migratory birds-- throughout the CD, within the music, and it does evoke the mountains for me, makes the air feel fresher.
Arvo Part: Spiegel Im Spiegel (Alexei Lubimov, piano and Kyrill Rybakov, clarinet) from Misterioso (ECM)
To continue with this CD introduced last week (see previous post), a duet piece for clarinet and piano-- stately, meditative, and perfect.
Mitsuko Uchida: Fantasia in D Minor from Mozart Sonatas (Philips)
This is one of my favourite records from the vinyl collection at the station. The longer sonatas are beautiful but this small piece fits in anywhere and enobles the whole show.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The Open Window airs at 6:30 am Mondays and 10:00 am Thursdays at www.cjly.net (Kootenay Cooperative Radio in Nelson, B.C.) sponsored by Sidewinders Coffee in Nelson.
Valentin Silvestrov: Post Scriptum (Alexei Lubimov, piano and Alexander Trostiansky, violin) from Misterioso (ECM)
This fascinating CD features the music of several composers from the former Soviet Union countries including the Ukrainian pianist and composer Valentin Silvestrov. He is one the many artists who suffered at the hands of the Soviet government. When he came under fire for his modernist style, he chose to withdraw from public performance of his work rather than change. He wrote a piece called Silent Songs, intended to be played in private. But that is not what we heard on this show. This piece, Post Scriptum, Silvestrov has referred to as "a postscript to Mozart, and in a broader sense, to the classical period."
Charles Mingus: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Stop Boogie Shuffle, Jelly Roll, Self-Portrait in Three Colours, Pussy-Cat Dues from Mingus Ah Um (Columbia)
Mingus, who died in 1979, was a big, mysterious, cantankerous task-master who was not interested in what other people, including his audiences, thought of him. When I was in the high school band at North Kamloops Secondary in the 1960's, there was a very good trumpet player named Dennis Mulligan. One day he brought this album to school and played it. It was exotically modern and mysterious. He loved it, the teacher hated it, and I was very intrigued. It may have been the first real jazz record I had ever heard. Recorded in 1959, Mingus Ah Um is considered one of Mingus' finest records, and it is also one of his most relatively sedate. In some ways it is a tribute to Ellington and other forbears. It has incredible musicians on it like Booker Ervin and Jimmy Knepper.
Autorickshaw: Purvi Tillana, Tigra Tani, and Ganamurthy from Four Higher (Tala-Wallah)
I also played this great band on October 26-- check out that post.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Omar Sosa, Cave Singers, Water Music, Joni Mitchell: Playlist for The Open Window for November 23, 2009
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Omar Sosa: Iyawo, La Tra, La Llamada, Dos Caminos, and El Consenso from Mulatos (OTA)
Omar Sosa is a Cuban pianist and band leader who has also lived in the U.S., Ecuador, and Spain. This band consists of two North Africans, four Europeans, and two Cubans. They play a mix of Cuban jazz, latin dance grooves, and North African and European folk. This CD is rather chamber-music-like, with a small group and subtle music. The Cuban reed player Paquito d'Rivera makes an appearance on clarinet, and the French musician Renaud Pion plays the astoundingly low-register contra-bass clarinet occasionally to great effect.
The Cave Singers: Summer Light and Leap from Welcome Joy (Matador)
Rich, interesting, dramatic, forlorn, spare folk music from Seattle.
Joni Mitchell: Love Puts on a New Face from Taming the Tiger (Warner)
An exquisite song from a beautiful and perhaps overlooked CD from 1998, by one of my favourite risk-takers.
Handel, Water Music Suite 3: The Hague Philharmonic conducted by Pierre Boulez from Water Music (Philips)
In 1741, an orchestra played this music on a barge on the Thames, near the King's barge, as a concert for him and his friends. A few years before that, Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks was also heard by the general public. These may have been the first public performances of classical music . Before that, European music of the great composers was played only for royalty and the upper classes.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
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Like all my shows this one is an experiment in juxtaposition or in the denial of genre, and the neighbouring of directions in this one is particulary (I hope) striking. The show moves back and forth between these two CDs:
Kronos Quartet: various tracks from Early Music (Nonesuch)
"Early music" normally refers to European music from Medieval times, before Baroque etc. Some of that music is from that period-- for example there is a piece here by Hildegard von Bingen from the 11th century. But there is also music from modern composers like John Cage, Arvo Part, and Harry Partch. Despite this huge span of time and culture, the music somehow mysteriously works as a unified program. It's therefore the perfect CD for this show, as perfect as Kronos itself which has made a career of virtuosic and refreshing performance of music from everywhere (string quartet versions of Monk, Hendrix, Africa, Bollywood, tango, as well as lots of 20th century composers), and which may be the most often-played group on this show. So I decided to try to expand the range of Early Music even further by interspersing its music with:
Bon Hiver: For Emma, Stacks, Blindsided, Skinny Love, and Lump Sum from For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
It's hard to explain the beauty of this CD mainly because I don't know what to liken it to or compare it with. The songwriter-musician Justin Vernon decided to hibernate for a winter in his father's cabin the the Wisconsin forest and came out with this self-produced album of songs on which he plays and sings all parts, under the name Bon Iver. It has a gentle, raw feeling and some beautiful harmonies that are rough and elusive but that's their charm. I like to think it works with Kronos. What do you think?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Caetano Veloso, Kokopelli, Cannonball Adderley, Satomi Saeki, Bach: Playlist for The Open Window for November 2, 2009
The Open Window airs at 6:30 am Mondays and 8am Thursdays at www.cjly.net (Kootenay Co-op Radio) in Nelson, B.C.
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Caetano Veloso: Livros, O Navio Negreiro, and How Beautiful from Livro (Nonesuch)
Brazilian artist, musician, singer, composer, political activist Caetano Veloso is sometimes likened to Bob Dylan for his impact on popular music. He is of the same generation as Dylan, but there is one big difference: the provocative music of Veloso (and Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil) was performed under a military dictatorship. All three spent time in jail for anti-government activity and had their lyrics censored. Their radical music, which was called Tropicalia, contained bossa nova, folk rock, art rock, jazz and poetic spoken word, and they felt the wrath of former fans, again like Dylan. Unlike Dylan though, he has remained relevant. He is now a world superstar without any of the usual trappings of pop stardom, making challenging music.
Kokopelli: Con Que la Lavare from Spirit (Independent)
This inspired and inspiring choir of young people from Edmonton contains four members from Nelson.
Cannonball Adderley: One for Daddy-O from Somethin' Else (Blue Note)
This 1958 album makes lots of greatest jazz album lists. Miles Davis is a sideman, and there is apparently some debate about who the leader actually was. With Cannonball on alto, Miles on trumpet, and Hank Jones and his brother Sam Jones along with Art Blakey on piano, bass and drums respectively, this is classic music that sums up the best of the late fifties. It's relaxed and fluid, but with that challenging Miles Davis directness . Cannonball's ecstatic break that opens his solo on this track is worth the price of the CD.
Satomi Saeki: Haru No Kyuku and Hakumei from Japanese Koto Music (Independent)
Satomi Saeki was classically trained in Japan and now lives in Victoria, B.C., travelling the continent (and sometimes back to Japan) teaching and performing. From the CD notes:
"Saeki's interest in performing koto music on the international stage was inspired by a concert in Hawaii in 1991. As she looked out into the audience, she noticed several Japanese American women were visibly moved while listening to traditional Japanese music. As a Japanese woman living in Canada and raising Japanese Canadian children it was an emotional state Saeki could easily identify with....."
This music in one word? Crystalline.
J.S. Bach: Sonata in G Minor for Flute, Harp and Cello-- Irena Grafenaur (flute), Maria Graf (harp), David Geringas (cello) from The Virtuoso's Bach Vol 4 (Philips)
The combination of harp, flute and cello, think about it. That's why I had to play it, and this piece added a lovely elegance to the show.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Autorickshaw, Gotan Project, Dave Brubeck, and Baroque Recorder: Playlist for The Open Window for October 26, 2009
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Autorickshaw: Ragam and Saraswati from Four Higher (Tala-Wallah)
Vocalist Suba Sankaran leads this Toronto group that plays a mix of Indian classical, jazz, and funk. Always a big fan of Indian music and its cross-over with Western music, I find the funky electric bass lines really interesting here, and I like Suba Sankaran's vocals. In December Autorickshaw will perform a concert in Toronto to mark the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the worst industrial disaster in history. The concert is a benefit for the Sambhavna Clinic which treats the thousands of people still affected.
Gotan Project: Gotan Project Meets Chet Baker from Inspiracion-Espiracion (Pioneer)
This piece samples Chet Baker playing Round Midnight accompanied by accordion with a tango-like section as well. The Paris-based Gotan Project likes tango but they are into beats and samples too, and they throw them together every which way, with surprising results. This Chet Baker piece has the feel of a live performance in a relaxed club in some mysterious part of a big city-- somewhere like Rio or Buenos Aires.
Bernard Krainis and the London Strings directed by Neville Mariner: Concerto in A (Vivaldi) and Concerto in C (Handel) from Concertos for Recorder (Mercury)
It's such a treat to hear virtuoso recorder in the baroque style. That was the recorder's heyday before it was supplanted by the transverse flute. In the 1700's there were recorder virtuosos and composers writing for it. Bernard Krainis, who died in the late 1990s, once said that the recorder is harder to play than a reed or flute because you can't control the sound with your embouchure, it has to come from your diaphragm like a singer. This is a piece of vinyl from the 1960s, out of print now.
Dave Brubeck: Strange Meadowlark and Three to Get Ready from Take Five (Columbia)
When this record came out in the early 1960s, the Brubeck Quartet was popular with the masses but not with us really hip people, except that we had to admit a grudging respect for alto saxophonist Paul Desmond whose brand of dry, fluent lyricism is still unparalleled. Part of our problem was that tendency of youth to dismiss any artist once they are known to more than a dozen people. (I have a friend who wears a t-shirt that boasts: I listen to bands that don't even exist yet!) Anyway to me now Brubeck was an interesting and engaging experimenter but not one of the great jazz pianists, but Paul Desmond gets more wonderful with time (even though he's been gone a couple of decades now). And this is a much better record than I and my friends were prepared to admit back then.
Monday, October 19, 2009
"I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear. This prism could be the spirit of the listener."-- Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt (1935- ) has made ancient music relevant to modern times and has given certain 20th century minimalist sounds an ancient flavour and to that I say bravo. This is a new CD and beautiful.
This is one of my favourite jazz albums. The ability of Dave Holland (bass), Chris Potter (saxophones), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes and marimba), and Billy Kilson (drums) to play separately yet together in inspiring and intricate and fresh ways seems infinite. When Dave Holland was a young man in the 1960's Miles Davis heard him in Ronny Scott's in London (Holland is British) and invited him to play with him immediately. So he is the bass player on groundbreaking work of Miles' including Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way. Now he's a respected elder and leader of a group of people half his age and they pretty much define jazz in the early part of this century.
Beyond the Pale: Split Decision, Doina, and Meditation from Postcards (Borealis)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Blake Parker, Bach, Bill Frisell, Archie Shepp: playlist for The Open Window for Oct 12 and 15, 2009
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Blake Parker and Jude Davison: Shadow of the World and Fool from Terminal City Trilogy (Independent)
Blake was a Nelson poet and local cultural hero who died of cancer in 2007. When he was diagnosed, he and Jude Davison decided to put his poems to music, and the result is these three CDs.
Bill Frisell: Disfarmer Theme and Focus from Disfarmer (Nonesuch)
These pieces are impressions of the photographs of a man known as Disfarmer, who lived in Arkansas from 1884 to 1959. He was a portrait photographer whose work is now considered pioneering because of the start, piercing, artistic way he portrayed people in rural areas and small towns Arkansas in the 1930s and 1940s. Most of them were not discovered until the 1970's, and you will now find them on the web and in museums,
Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan: Motherless Child, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, and My Lord What a Morning from Goin' Home (Steeplechase)
This 1976 album of spirituals surprised a lot of people when it came out because Shepp was usually a fire-breathing avant-gardist. Here, he's reverent and sensitive and subtle, especially when he plays soprano saxophone.
Jean-Jacques Kantarow: J.S. Bach: Sonata #1 in G Minor from J.S. Bach-- 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas (Denon)
How many times could I listen to this without getting tired of it and thinking I am only scratching the surface of a new universe?