Saturday, June 09, 2012

Okay, I know it'd been a while since I posted, but 2 months?! Time flies when you're not really having much fun... My apologies. The computer was conscripted into another long-term project, but now that that's finished and I'm on the other side of some auditions, I'm ready (nay) eager to return to this project. It's not like I haven't listened to music in the last two months. It's just been stacking up, dreading this very moment when I was going to have to write it all down... Without further ado, here we go. Ray Bryant "Live at Montreux '77" (Vinyl) A live recording from the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival shows an energetic and creative Ray Bryant doing his thing with fire and vigor. Stan Getz "In Concert" (Vinyl) Released in 1966 on the Pickwick label, this shows Stan Getz at the height of popularity. The latin jazz craze had reached fevered pitch with Jobim's "the Girl from Impanema" and Getz was there to run to the bank with it. R.E.M. "...And I Feel Fine - Best of the I.R.S. Years" (CD) I'm not a huge REM fan, and there are certainly other places where you could read volumes of information dedicated to this hugely influential band. This compilation catalogs their early existence with the IRS label during a more rough-edged incarnation. Stipe had hair and their music had grit in it. Its a good CD for me to have to help remind me of the entire family of music-making that REM helped spawn with their crafted melancholic anthems. Queen "News of the World" (Vinyl) It seems to be very couture in any generation to lambast anything that jumps too wide of a gulf of expectation. Queen's "News of the World" was their second self-produced album and they deliberately sought out a more mainstream friendly sound with the record, which I find interesting, because how often do you hear of a wildly successful rock band trying to appeal MORE to the sensibility of the average listener? Either way, at the time this record was not well received, but like rebellious children eager to stake our territory away from our ancestors, current music critics suggest that this and its predecessor ("A Day at the Races") might be among Queen's most important output. Go figure. This album has "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" on it, in case you were afraid you've never heard anything from this record. Neil Diamond "Just for You" (Vinyl) I've always been down with Neil Diamond's vibe. In the age I know him, he seemed like a hip grandpa that played guitar and sang some cool songs in a pleasing warble. Then it turns out he put out all of his best stuff early on. This was his second album, and it contains "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," "Red, Red Wine" and (my favorite) "Cherry Cherry." Most of what I've seen Mr. Diamond do since hasn't captured the acoustic rock n' roll spirit quite the way this album encapsulates it. Stern, Istomin & Rose Trio "Schubert: PianoTrio" (Vinyl) I'm embarrassed to say I can't even remember which Schubert piano trio this is, and I can't read it off of the photograph. I'm sure it was lovely. It doesn't involve a viola, however, so what do I care, really? B.B. King "Live & Well" (Vinyl) Perhaps the last remaining thread to the origins of American blues, B.B. King made this album in 1969. The LP features live cuts on one side and the other features studio recorded tracks. If you like the blues, you could probably obtain your doctorate doing nothing but writing on Mr. King's output. The Juilliard String Quartet "Beethoven: Op. 131, 132 & Grosse Fugue" (CD) A noble recording of some of Beethoven's last string quartets, this recording is one of the last made to feature Robert Mann on first violin before his retirement from the ensemble. I have listened to this recording dozens of times and it is almost like sitting in a church built to the genius of Beethoven's late output. Vanksa, Minnesota Orchestra "Beethoven: Symphonies 3 & 8" (CD) Recording a Beethoven cycle in this age is a borderline redundant task. With so many options bursting of the shelf, why add to the pile? Still, Vanksa leads the Minnesota Orchestra into battle with his Finnish banner waving wildly through performances which can best be described as fiery, and (at times) animalistic. My Morning Jacket "Circuital" (Vinyl) This album came on two 12" 45 rpm discs which confused me greatly at first. I tried playing it at the standard 33 rpm and thought "well, these guys certainly are mellow!" Upon repeated listening I've decided that My Morning Jacket deserves congratulations for beating the odds: creating interesting music within the big-label system. I await excitedly to see what this band does next. Audioslave "Audioslave" (CD) The self-titled debut from my generation's most anticipated rock supergroup was probably as big a hit as could have been expected. Sadly, for my own tastes, this project was unable to live up to the quality of its predecessors (either Rage or Soundgarden) and its existence will probably be relegated to a foot note in the career handbook of Mr. Morello or Mr. Cornell. Evgeny Kissin "Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition" (CD) This is the original composition as penned by Mussorgsky, unlike the brilliantly orchestrated version that Ravel completed which is played annually at least 1,204 times. Mr. Kissin's performance is powerful, nuanced, in a word: beautiful Lena Horne "Give the Lady What She Wants" (Vinyl) Released in 1958, this is a beautiful collection of jazz/big band vocals in the vein of Sinatra that stands out to me. After listening to Peggy Lee I recall feeling underwhelmed. Ms. Horne, however, has a sparkle in her voice that made me listen and enjoy every tune. Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra "Beethoven: Symphony no. 6" (Vinyl) In line with the above conversation of the Minnesota Orchestra's recent Beethoven symphony cycle, here is a great argument: one can still obtain (easily) the complete symphony recordings by Georg Solti and the CSO. I have mine on LP, but they're available on CD for quite reasonable prices. These are benchmark recordings. Whether you like them or not, comparison to them is unavoidable and knowledge of them is essential for any young conductor. Menuhin, Dorati, Minneapolis Symphony "Bartok: The Violin Concerto" (Vinyl) Recorded early enough (during Bartok's lifetime) that this was THE Bartok violin concerto instead of concerto no. 1 (which it became) is enough of a reason for me to keep this recording around. I'm not the biggest fan of Menuhin's playing, but this recording is an important musical artifact and the engineers at Mercury did a fantastic job capturing both the soloist and the orchestra. Maynard Ferguson "Primal Scream" (Vinyl) A wild collection of tunes by jazz trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson, this is nonetheless a weird concept. Proving that disco had infiltrated every facet of music-making in the 70's, this album sounds like equal parts funk, disco and jazz. At one point Mr. Ferguson is imitating the high-pitched synthesizer parts (in their own register, of course) and later he's playing Pagliacci. Brick "Good High" (Vinyl) I can't remember if I've reviewed this on this blog before or not, but here it is again. A funky album that sounds like a prolonged trip to the car wash (remember that song, right?) is fun, animated and has a couple of high water marks like "Southern Sunset." Band of Skulls "Sweet Sour" (CD) Released this year, (2012) it is a noteworthy follow-up to their under-valued debut. Full of sincere rock n' roll tunes, they get away with a line up of traditionalist thinking by being absolutely serious about it. Despite the rock n' roll, there's an intimate quality to this music. Think of it as really loud music for your next chamber music gathering. Soul Coughing "Ruby Vroom" (CD) This 1994 debut put Soul Coughing on the map for their "deep slacker jazz." Whatever the environment was like in the 90's when this band inhabited it is one thing. Now is now, and having only recently discovered this band, I am really into the stream-of-consciousness lyrical content, the trippy samples and fat drum beats. Highlights: "Bus to Beelzebub" and "Screenwriter Blues."

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