Cellos, marimbas, woodblocks, oh my! Composers who are classically trained and yet value uptown as well as downtown elements, minimal jazz within structures that allow for musical freedoms galore. This is what Bang On a Can is all about. Julia Wolfe, Louis Andriessen, David Lang, and Michael Gordon are the composers featured on this unique CD that offers the ultimate challenging listen.
To say this album breathed life back into me is an understatement. From the first song to the last, Van Goat is a band that makes you WANT to “follow them under.” The horns bring to mind the jaunty liveliness of a New Orleans funeral procession, the percussion sets up a heart beat beneath the catchy lyrics and fast-paced numbers that defy classification–is it jazz, punk, Americana? Only two slow down enough to be ballads, and they are “Nothing Matters” and “Saliva Monster,” both featuring the powerful female vocals of Lindsay Alexis. Aidan Ward offers lead vocals on the rest of these amazing songs. I LOVE THIS!!!
From Nigeria and a remastering of a 1975 album, this is just the ticket for injecting some funk into your life. Felix Day and Kevin Coburn make music that gets into your blood and makes your feet shuffle. The songs are long enough to satisfy your dance craving and lift your mood.
Dubbed “The Best of the JSP Studio Sessions,” these blues songs are infused with rock and funk, which put them into an enjoyable blues league of their own. Lucky’s father and his wife collaborate with him on these tracks, and rarely has a family reunion such as this sounded so good. This should get plenty of play.
This is fresh jazzy experimental music from a Bay Area band whose upbeat tempo changes and fanciful saxophones bring to mind plenty of influences, such as Sun Ra. The horn infusions even made me think of Chicago for a brief second or two, but the mix of international sounding beats distinguish this as its own unique sound. Highly enjoyable and energetic.
This is gorgeous music from singer-songwriter Carmen Hillestad from Oslo, Norway. The word “ethereal” has been used to describe it, and I wholeheartedly agree. She is as beautiful as her music is, yet she has the confidence to put Gena Rowlands on her album cover and let her work speak for itself. Lovers of loops, electronics, and atmospherics, as well as dreamy vocals, will want to play this one as much as possible.
This Swedish duo have been creating ambient music together since they were 15, and this album represents what can happen when musicians mature into fine creators of soothing atmospherics. Some field recordings from Australia and other locals are included on here, and some lovely lyrics bubble up from underneath the layers of a few of the songs. You won’t want this one to end.
This reissue of a 1951 King album is truly blue and moody, as the title promises. A great band accompanies the hearty voice of Lula Reed, changing the mood on alternate songs from jazzy blues to dark moods. Try “Going Back to Mexico” and then “I’ll Drown in My Tears” to see what I mean.
How lovely and simple are the compositions on this CD, a collection of stories from nature rendered beautifully by Berlin-based Japanese vibraphonist Fujita. Hoshiko Yamane’s violin and Arturo Martinez Steele’s cello layer in on a few of the songs. Read the liner notes as you breathe in the images of birds, waterfalls, forests, and trees summoned by Fujita’s exquisite vibraphone. “Memories of the Wind” (track 8) will reverberate through your consciousness long after the last key is struck.
This is an aurally fascinating concept album about an individual attempting to navigate through the maze of mind (which is Mara, a demon) in order to transcend worldly pleasures and achieve the awakened state of the Buddha. The musicians on here meld Eastern and Western traditions in a fascinating way, and you can hear elements of Indian classical ragas infused with jazz, hip hop, and spoken word. Brother-sister duo Aditya and Mythili Prakash have produced this CD that will get you dancing and awake in the best possible way.
This group is otherwise known as Mercury Rev, and consists of likely suspects Jonathan, Grasshopper, Nels Cline, Steve Shelley, Jesse Chandler, and Martin Keith. Woodstock-based guitarist Peter Walker joins this amazing band, and it is he who brings to mind Ravi Shankar’s sitar, seeing as he studied with Shankar. The music on this CD is pure psychedelic bliss, and the songs themselves take their time as they exemplify the Greek fates: past (lachesis), present (clotho), and atropos (future). Enjoy every minute.
The staticky quality of these recordings are perfect for the blues, and Carr proves that misery loves company with these songs. Recorded circa the years of the Great Depression, we get a true feel for how tough things can be. “Rainy Day Blues” is awesome, as are many of the other tracks. Looking to commiserate? Try any of these to keep those lonesome feelings at bay.
Such sparse loveliness coming from a trumpet can only come from a Norwegian musician. Compared to the sounds of a flute, Henriksen’s trumpet music tiptoes over your emotions, leaving you feeling sad and nostalgic, and the beauty of his high-pictched vocalizations (especially on 9) offers you just enough comfort to wish for more.
All hail A Divina (the Divine One), the great Brazilian singer/actress whose name became associated with samba and bossa nova. As soon as I heard the first notes of this CD, I knew I was in for a treat. Upbeat samba melodies along with ballads are rendered with equal beauty by this lovely singer. Hope you enjoy as much as I did. Songs 1 and 5 are my particular favorites.
When I first looked at the cover of this 2-CD package, I was reminded of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.” But as soon as I started listening to the music and reading the liner notes, I knew it was so much more. Not that I don’t like Julie, but this Smithsonian retrospective of 60 years of Barbara’s music runs the gamut from folk to blues to jazz, and her amazing voice adapts to each style as though she was born to it. Plus, she opted out of the fame route and chose to sing where her passions lay–in civil right and songs of the people. Memphis Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Chambers Brothers, Pete Seeger, and many others appear on here. Be sure to listen to Disc 2, which contains the unreleased recordings. See for yourself why Louis Armstrong referred to Dane thus: “Did you get that chick? She’s a gasser!”
This is a slice of blues history (first released in 1976) that is a great addition to our library. All compositions created, played on piano, and sung by Big Chief Ellis, with Tarheel Slim, Brownie McGhee, and John Cephas on guitar. Be sure to read the liner notes that describe how Wilbert Ellis, despite his religious parents’ mandate that forbade music in the house, got his aunt to let him play her piano by mowing her lawn. His clear, strong voice, and his sure-fingered piano work make this a must-play for any blues show.
Gordon Daniel, Jr. set out to play guitar, but added synths to his repertoire in a big way. His music is interesting, and his voice sounds like the synths. “Dark Knights” is the only instrumental track; all the others have vocals.
Hamish Kilgour (of The Clean) composed these songs about the kingdom of Finkelstein for his son, Taran. They were intended to be the soundtrack to a story, and that is still the intention. I’d say that, given the story contained in the songs themselves, and the cheery way they spark your imagination, the story has almost written itself. The CD art is reminiscent of that for the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” and you’ll just have to try this out to see how the whole experience works for you.