Tag Archives: Music

Steve Earle & the Dukes: J.T.

Three months after Justin Townes Earle’s tragic death in August 2020, his father announced plans to record an album of his son’s songs. J.T. was a fixture on the Nashville ragtime, folk, bluegrass, and rock scenes, a gifted songwriter who released nine albums between 2002 and 2019. He inherited his father’s gift for songwriting, penning reveries along with tender ballads that addressed his search for forgiveness and his struggles with depression and addiction (“Turn Out the Lights”). Drawing heavily from Justin’s early to mid-career material, J.T. opens with an upbeat bluegrass take of 2008’s “I Don’t Care” and moves as far ahead chronologically as the jarring title track from Justin’s 2019 swan song The Saint of Lost Causes. Much of J.T sounds upbeat while masking deeply troubled lyrics: “They Killed John Henry” bemoans the tragic fate of an American folk hero who died despite his best intentions, and the darkly wry “Harlem River Blues” speaks of committing suicide when things are looking brightest. The closer, “Last Words,” is the cover album’s sole original—it’s a painful, personal lament in which Steve Earle bares his soul about his son’s death. Otherwise, J.T.’s music speaks for itself.

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Personal Demons. Liebermann, piano.

Lowell Liebermann is one of the most widely admired, and widely performed, composers of our time. Now, he makes his recording debut as a pianist, and not just in his own music, sandwiching works of Schubert, Liszt, Busoni, and the 20th-century Czech Miloslav Kabelácˇ between his own Gargoyles, Four Apparitions, and Tenth Nocturne. Liebermann’s Four Apparitions (1985) are aphoristic gems, miniatures that seem to be searching for something—a note, a rhythm, a figure—to coalesce around. The four Gargoyles (1989), with their passing hints of Liszt, Prokofiev, Scriabin, and Ravel (shades of Le gibet in the bell-like D’s of the second?), are already in the repertoires of a lot of pianists, and belong in even more. The closing Nocturne is beautiful. As executant, Liebermann goes at Liszt’s Totentanz hammer and tongs, and does a magnificent job with Busoni’s monumental half-hour-long Fantasia Contrappuntistica. There are places where a first-order virtuoso might do a smoother job with the rough stuff (e.g., the Preludio Volante of Kabelácˇ), but the fact that Liebermann makes one think of Weissenberg is high praise in itself. Excellent recording in a bright ambience, captured by Sergei Kvitko at the Blue Griffin “Ballroom” in Lansing.

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Blue Note’s Classic Vinyl Reissue Series

One of the great pleasures of listening to vintage Blue Note albums on vinyl, along with the incredible, groundbreaking music and the sumptuous tones that legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder was able to capture in his famed Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey studio, is looking at the striking black and white images taken by Francis Wolff, Blue Note’s resident photographer and partner with fellow Berliner Albert Lion of the hallowed jazz label.  As producer and Blue Note archivist Michael Cuscuna noted, “He not only preserved a major part of jazz history, but with his remarkable eye he captured amazing candid portraits of great artists that reveal the joy and intensity of jazz at the point of creation.” Added Herbie Hancock, “Francis Wolff’s images of musicians at work are so relaxed and intimate that they capture the spirit not just of the moment but also the era.” 

But beyond the beautifully crafted packaging, featuring Wolff’s photos and Reid Miles’s signature design style, a look that continues to be imitated to this day, is the timeless music, the likes of which represents some of the greatest in the history of jazz. The label’s latest rollout, the Classic Vinyl Reissue Series, is a continuation of the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Series, which was launched in 2019 to commemorate its 80th anniversary. The series, comprising many of Blue Note’s most enduring titles, was newly remastered directly from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio with all-analog 180-gram vinyl pressings done at Optimal in Germany. The Classic Vinyl Reissue series runs parallel to the acclaimed Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series.

The series kicked off in December with two important titles that definitely merit the term Classics. First up is Lee Morgan’s 1964 The Sidewinder, a commercial hit for the great trumpeter on the strength of the irrepressible, boogaloo-flavored title track, fueled by Billy Higgins’ syncopated backbeat, Barry Harris’ funky piano comping, Bob Crenshaw’s buoyant bass line, and the taut harmonies and interplay on the frontline between the trumpeter and Blue Note regular Joe Henderson on tenor sax. McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy, the great pianist’s 1967 Blue Note debut featuring saxophonist Henderson, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Elvin Jones, his former partner in the legendary John Coltrane Quartet, includes such timeless Tyner originals as the energetic “Passion Dance,” the somber “Search for Peace,” and  the earthy, oft-covered “Blues on the Corner.”

Horace Silvers Song for My Father

January saw the release of Horace Silver’s Song for My Father, a 1965 release which contains his best-known composition, the memorable title track, along with a rousing hard bop staple in “The Kicker” and his melancholic ballad “Lonely Woman” (not to be confused with Ornette Coleman’s song of the same name from 1959’s The Shape of Jazz to Come). Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, the tenor saxophonist’s 1964 masterpiece, features stellar performances from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, resident Blue Note tenorman Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Carter, and drummer Jones and such memorable Shorter compositions as “Witch Hunt,” “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum,” and “Infant Eyes.” 

The sound on the first four releases in the Classic Vinyl Reissue Series is remarkably clear, allowing for top-notch dynamics. The low end is outstanding, producing a warm, woody presence from the upright bass and a resounding depth in the low register of the piano, while the high notes issuing forth from trumpets and saxes are swathed in a very natural blanket of sound. Regarding the drum kit, the nuance of brushwork on the snare, as Roger Humphries demonstrates on Silver’s “Lonely Woman” or Elvin Jones delivers on Tyner’s “Search for Peace,” registers with clarity and adds an alluring quality to the mix. And the ride cymbal, the veritable heartbeat of these swinging jazz classics, rings out with authority, particularly when Jones is fueling the proceedings. Overall, the sound is gorgeous on this Classic Vinyl Reissue Series. 

The rollout, which will see two releases per month through 2021, continued in February with Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else, which featured a rare sideman appearance by Miles Davis, and Joe Henderson’s Page One. March saw the release of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers’ Moanin’ and Hank Mobley’s Soul Station. Other Blue Note classics to be released in coming months include Jimmy Smith’s Back at The Chicken Shack, Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, Freddie Hubbard’s Ready for Freddie, and Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. Along with appealing to veteran Blue Note fans eager to fill gaps in their collections, the remastered Blue Note vinyl is pulling in younger record collectors who more recently discovered the joys of listening to historic jazz recordings on vinyl.

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Paris, Hilary Hahn

Paris, Hilary Hahn (violin); Radio France Philharmonic/Mikko Franck. DG 00289 483 9847 (CD).  TT: 52.51. CHAUSSON: Poème. PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D. RAUTAVAARA: Deux sérénades. The chief interest here lies in Einojuhari Rautavaara's Deux sérénades, adapted for Hilary Hahn from his opera The House of the Sun; when the composer died in mid-project, his onetime student... Read More »

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Celebrating Delbert McClinton: Keep Doin’ What You Do

I know, I know…I promised y'all I was gonna present Part III of the Grant Green story to you from last issue. But there's something I just gotta tell you about, and it can't wait. Reason is, it's a timely issue—one of the legends is hanging up his spurs, and this is my tribute to... Read More »

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Foo Fighters: Medicine at Midnight

Nirvana drummer-turned-frontman Dave Grohl and his platinum-selling Foo Fighters collective have spent the past 25-plus years ascending the alt-rock pantheon. Thirty years onward from Nirvana’s game-changing Nevermind, the Foos’ tenth studio album, Medicine at Midnight, reinforces their signature heavy-yet-melodic song template but also embeds some additional compositional colors amidst a firmly entrenched sonic palette. “Shame Shame” sets the transitional tone with a kinetic live-in-the-room vibe fueled by powerhouse drummer Taylor Hawkins’ hi-hat accents, plinking strings, and Grohl’s yearning lead vocals. The title track slinks along with some sleek back-alley funk, while the strings-laden acoustic lookback lament “Waiting on a War” shifts into overdrive in its final minute to earn a full-bore metallic payoff. The plaintive “Chasing Birds” could double as a long-lost mid-period Wings track, and a pair of festival-friendly fist-pumpers—the skyburnt groove of “Cloudspotter” and the defiantly propulsive “No Son of Mine”—bump chests together at the headbanger’s ball. Crank two amps and call me in the morning—though it breezes by at an economical 36 minutes, Medicine is just what the aural doctor ordered for the Foos to continue dominating the alt-rock playing field.

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Qobuz Sponsors Juilliard LIVE’s Le Monde Galant Virtual Concert

Juilliard’s Historical Performance program takes listeners on a Hi-Res musical trip around the world

Qobuz, the music lovers’ Hi-Res streaming service, is pleased to sponsor Juilliard’s release of Le Monde Galant. The concert is part of Juilliard LIVE, which showcases live-streamed and on-demand student performances for a global audience.

The June 29 release, out now, features an exclusive performance from the Juilliard415 period-instrument ensemble. The hour-long concert allows listeners and viewers to travel back in time through the perspective of some of the foremost 17th and 18th century composers. Audiences will travel from the United Kingdom to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East to the Americas as imagined by Jean-Marie Leclair, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and more.  

With the help of Qobuz, the performance was professionally captured in Juilliard’s Peter J. Sharp Theater in May 2021 and edited with the school’s state-of-the-art video and audio recording equipment. The concert premiered on June 29 on Juilliard’s Media Gallery (https://www.juilliard.edu/event/150196/juilliard415-presents-le-monde-galant) and YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/JuilliardSchool), and will be available for on-demand viewing for a period of one month. 

The Julliard415 concert is an extension of Qobuz’ ongoing effort to super-serve the biggest music fans. Earlier this year, Qobuz officially partnered with Zappa Records to release nine Frank Zappa albums exclusively in Hi-Res for the first time, and also became the only service available to stream in Hi-Res on Sonos. Christian McBride recorded an exclusive EP for Qobuz, The Q Sessions. And, since it became available in the U.S. in 2019, Qobuz has been the go-to for aficionados looking for a more immersive listening experience that includes exclusive editorial content and essays, music booklets, full-length liner notes, playlists, and more. 

Robert Mealy, director of Historical Performance at Juilliard, said of the sponsorship: “Nicholas McGegan created a wonderful world tour for Juilliard415, the virtuoso baroque orchestra of Juilliard’s Historical Performance department, in this year when none of us could travel! His program takes us through the folk traditions of 18th-century Europe, with visits to France, Italy, Spain, Scotland, and the fascinating melodies of Eastern Europe. After a visit to Moscow, we go east to the Ottoman Empire and Persia, to China, and then to the Incas of Peru, finally finishing at the banks of the Mississippi. This was one of the highlights of our season with Juilliard415. We’re thrilled to have Qobuz, which shares our commitment to quality and excellence, sponsor this performance, and help broaden its reach to audiences across the globe.”  

Dan Mackta, U.S. Managing Director of Qobuz, said “Qobuz jumped at the opportunity to support Juilliard and its educational community. We offer our utmost respect for the music and admiration for those that create it.” About QobuzFounded in 2007, Qobuz, a pioneer of high-quality sound, Qobuz is the French music streaming and download service that meets the needs of demanding music lovers and audiophiles. Available in 18 countries around the world, in Europe, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, Qobuz offers an exceptional range of exclusive editorial content written by a team of experts. With its catalog of more than 70 million tracks, Qobuz also has the richest choice of high-resolution (Hi-Res) references on the market. Qobuz is the only multi-genre platform to achieve Hi-Res certification— – a label awarded by the Japan Audio Society (JAS). For more information: qobuz.com  

About Juilliard415

Juilliard415—an ensemble The New York Times said plays with “poise, hair-trigger responsiveness”—is Juilliard’s primary period-instrument ensemble. Juilliard415 musicians work with an unrivaled roster of resident and guest artists including Monica Huggett, Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman, William Christie, Masaaki Suzuki, Jordi Savall, Jane Glover, Harry Bicket, and many others. The ensemble performs a dynamic programming of repertoire from the late 16th through the early 19th centuries on period instruments. 

About The Juilliard School

Founded in 1905, The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. The school’s mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens. Located at Lincoln Center in New York City, Juilliard offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, drama (acting and playwriting), and music (classical, jazz, historical performance, and vocal arts). Currently more than 800 artists from 43 states and 44 countries and regions are enrolled at Juilliard, where they appear in over 700 annual performances in the school’s five theaters; at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and David Geffen halls and at Carnegie Hall; as well as at other venues around New York City, the country, and the world. Beyond its New York campus, Juilliard is defining new directions in global performing arts education for a range of learners and enthusiasts through The Tianjin Juilliard School and K-12 educational curricula

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Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Herrmann

There was a period when Bernard Herrmann (1911–1975) was the go-to composer for soundtracks to movies exploring the dark side of the human psyche. Examples of his handiwork include the scores for Taxi Driver, Twisted Nerve, and the Hitchcock films Marnie, Psycho, and Vertigo. Alto and sopranino saxophonist Italian Carla Marciano explores those themes plus a Harry Potter melody on Psychosis, and she evokes sinister moods so convincingly it comes as no surprise that she fell in love with Herrmann’s music at a young age. The spell is cast instantly; just listen to the long, sinuous lines she weaves during the introduction to the opening cut, “Taxi Driver,” and you’ll know Marciano has noir jazz in her veins. Alessandro La Corte plays electronic keyboards on some of the slow, brooding passages where Marciano claims the foreground, but during La Corte’s solos he switches to acoustic piano, where he dishes up some fiery McCoy Tyner-esque solos that in turn launch some Coltrane-influenced Marciano statements on sopranino. I recommend Psychosis to anyone who loves the music of Bernard Herrmann or who wants to hear jazz that’s modern, hip, and edgy. Carla Marciano, you have a new fan. 

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Chicago/The Blues/Today! from Craft/Vanguard RSD | Jazz Files

Every generation of music lovers should find a way to listen beyond their generation. If you fail to do the (enjoyable) listening work required to appreciate classical, blues, Brasilian, and other, more esoteric styles of [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile