Category Archives: Music

Cusco’s Apurimac II

If you’re going to tackle romance in art — any art, but especially, I think, music — you have to be good at it, or else you wind up with something fit only for hormonal teenagers. Cusco is good at … Continue reading

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Abdullah Ibrahim’s The Balance

Living legend Abdullah Ibrahim, at age 84, isn’t slowing down much in 2019. Already this year the South African pianist and composer was honored as an NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, and now he releases … Continue reading

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Locust Honey’s The Low and Low

You know how female country singers have often done “answer songs” that respond to the misogyny and sexism of hits by male country singers? The best known is “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” by Kitty Wells, which was … Continue reading

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Blato Zlato at Podkrepa Hall, Portland Oregon, 9 June 2019

Whenever I hear live Balkan music, I find myself wondering, “Why do I ever listen to anything else?” The wild rhythms, the insane harmonies, the tunes that leap in an instant from the depths of despair to the tallest mountaintop … Continue reading

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Michele Rabbia, Gianluca Petrella, Eivind Aarset’s Lost River

By turns ambient, majestic, contemplative, evocative, even at times unsettling, Lost River by the new trio of drummer Michele Rabbia, guitarist Eivind Aarset and trombonist Gianluca Petrella is a sonic hall of wonders. The album’s 10 tracks, mostly in the … Continue reading

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Philip Glass and Wendy Sutter’s Songs and Poems for Solo Cello

Philip Glass is not only arguably the best-known contemporary American composer, and one of the most prolific, he is also one of the most versatile. He’s done operas, film soundtracks, orchestral works for the Philip Glass Ensemble, and chamber music. … Continue reading

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Jake Xerxes Fussell’s Out of Sight

Jake Xerxes Fussell’s previous recording What in the Natural World was one of my favorites of 2017, and on Out of Sight he has upped his game considerably. A native of the South and longtime student of its folk art … Continue reading

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Icehouse’s Man of Colours

Released in 1987, Man of Colours is generally considered to be Icehouse’s best album, and was their most commercially successful. I found it most interesting that not a single cut from this one was included in Great Southern Land, generally … Continue reading

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H.C. Slim’s Sings

Rock critic Griel Marcus famously referred to the tunes preserved on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music as remnants of the “old weird America.” By that token, the songs laid down here by H.C. Slim may someday be thought … Continue reading

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Kelly Hunt’s Even The Sparrow

“That banjo has stories,” Kelly Hunt says of the instrument on which she accompanies herself on her lovely debut album Even The Sparrow. “I wish I knew them all.” Hunt seems destined to add plenty of her own stories to … Continue reading

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Various artists’ Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is one of the pre-eminent music festivals in the United States. Held annually in the Crescent City since 1969, after a few fits and starts earlier in the decade, it celebrates New Orleans … Continue reading

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An American Forrest’s O Bronder, Donder Yonder?

Yonder, yonder, yonder. It’s a word you don’t hear much these days except in the poetry of cowboys or from the Shakespearean stage. Forrest Van Tuyl, who performs as An American Forrest, is a young cowboy poet and horse wrangler … Continue reading

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Stephan Micus’s White Night

Stephan Micus is a unique spirit in what used to be called world music. His dedication to unfettered exploration of his musical vision is truly impressive. On White Night, his 23rd solo album for ECM, Micus unleashes his visionary creativity … Continue reading

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Alban & Josué’s Polska på Pan (Polska on Panpipes)

Multi-cultural is a word too often used, but here it is most appropriate, because this is truly multi-cultural. Alban is Alban Faust, born and raised in Germany, but for many years now living in rural Dalsland, west of Lake Vänern … Continue reading

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Martin Barre Celebrates 50 Years of Jethro Tull

Martin Barre, who for more than four decades was the guitarist of legendary rock band Jethro Tull, is celebrating the band’s fiftieth anniversary this year with a greatest hits show that delves into the band’s deep, wonderful catalog. Fans will … Continue reading

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Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 44, Chanson Georgienne, Op. 4. No 4, Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30; Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C. Op. 26

Music by Russian composers in the twentieth century presents some interesting contrasts, not only between those who remained in the Soviet Union after the 1917 Revolution, such as Dmitri Shostakovich, but also among the expatriates, such as, in this case, … Continue reading

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Ned Rorem’s Winter Pages/Bright Music

First, the confession: I have avoided Rorem’s music for years because I have an inexplicably deep-seated resistance to the art song in any form (whether this is because I was once a folk-singer or in spite of that fact, I’m … Continue reading

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Toru Takemitsu’s I Hear the Water Dreaming

I’ve long been fascinated by the music of Toru Takemitsu, one of those post-War Japanese artists who incorporated Western ideas in music while maintaining a strong sense of Japanese traditions. My first run-in was with November Steps on vinyl, bought … Continue reading

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Daniel Norgren’s Wooh Dang

You know it’s true love when a Swede compares you to coffee, right? “You’re the coffee in my cup / you’re the one who woke me up …” So Daniel Norgren croons on the sweet, gospel-tinged love song “The Day … Continue reading

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Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan’s Epistrophy

All jazz music can be described as an exploration, of course. At its best, the musicians whether solo or in an ensemble can be heard as they improvise, listening to and playing off of each other as they go, never … Continue reading

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Dominic Miller’s Absinthe

Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. That’s what guitarist Dominic Miller’s Absinthe is all about. But its not some wispy, tentative conception of atmospherics. Rather it’s the intentional use of sound, space and time to evoke a strong sense of place or emotion. … Continue reading

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Philip Glass and Martina Winkel’s Kepler

Philip Glass’ Kepler is another of his “portrait operas,” this one of the seventeenth-century German mathematician and astronomer who developed the laws of planetary motion, which became the foundation, ultimately, of Newton’s theory of gravitation. It’s no mistake that the … Continue reading

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Field Medic’s Fade Into the Dawn

In case you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a semi-unknown singer-songwriter on tour, playing the role of the opener that nobody came to hear, you can hear it and feel it in the opening track and second … Continue reading

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Bernarda Fink and Marcos Fink’s Canciónes Argentinas: Piazzola, Guastavino and Others

We don’t normally think of Argentina when we think of “classical” music. Well, time to do some re-thinking. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a group of composers emerged in Argentina, the “Generación de 900,” that in many … Continue reading

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Kitka’s Wintersongs and Evening Star

Kitka are an all-female vocal ensemble from the the San Francisco Bay area that started in 1979.  While members have come and gone over the ensuing forty years, Kitka remain firmly committed to promoting and celebrating the rich and diverse … Continue reading

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Rupa and the April Fish’s Growing Upward

I’d recently written about hopepunk in literature, so the appearance of Rupa and the April Fishes’ Growing Upward across my virtual desk was as timely and inevitable as the first day of spring. Lead singer Rupa is one of the … Continue reading

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Arvo Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen

It is no small irony that in an age that is condemned for being increasingly secular and materialistic, at least some of, if not the most significant and compelling music in Europe and America is, or has as its inspiration, … Continue reading

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John Tavener’s The Last Sleep of the Virgin; The Hidden Treasure

Like many contemporary composers, John Tavener uses music in the service of spirituality. He is a convert to the Russian Orthodox faith; the traditions of that faith have influenced his work as much or perhaps more than trends in music. … Continue reading

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Grupo Fantasma’s American Music: Vol. VII

I don’t think you’ll hear many records this year that move effortlessly from Turkish psychedelia on one track to Tex-Mex to cumbia and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms, all set to a big, brash funk sound. So if that sounds intriguing to … Continue reading

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West of Eden’s Flat Earth Society

I have followed West of Eden for almost 20 years, and seen them go through different phases. Once they tried to come across as a mix of the Corrs and ABBA, for a long time they kept recording theme-albums, about … Continue reading

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Kronos Quartet’s Winter Was Hard

Winter was Hard is one of Kronos Quartet’s anthology albums, and contains a wealth of contemporary music from a wide range of approaches. It is one of the first of their recordings that I owned (in cassette) and my first … Continue reading

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Stephen Emmer’s Recitement

I love it: pop culture invades the avant-garde. OK – now I’ve got that off my chest and am sitting here listening to Stephen Emmer’s Recitement. It’s really popular music, and Emmer has boosted it up a level in the … Continue reading

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The Dowland Project’s Romaria

It’s only fair to inform you that when the press information for this release hit the GMR editorial staff, it caused quite a discussion, stemming in large part from John Potter’s comments about “musicological thought police” and “negotiating with dead … Continue reading

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Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves’ self-titled

Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves are two up-and-coming young musicians on the old-time music scene in the U.S. and Canada, and they’ve teamed up for an utterly charming debut as a duo on clawhammer banjo and fiddle, respectively. De … Continue reading

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Vassar Clements’ Full Circle

Vassar Clements was the first fiddle player whose playing I fell in love with. I’ve always just naturally gravitated to the guitar, but Vassar’s playing on the legendary Will the Circle Be Unbroken album made me sit up and pay … Continue reading

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McDermott’s 2 Hours’ Besieged

Named after a radio show McDermott’s 2 Hours was formed in 1986 by Nick Burbridge. More than 30 years later Burbridge is the only surviving member from the original line up. This, their ninth album if my mathematics work, is … Continue reading

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Garmarna’s Hildegard von Bingen

The sticker says “12th century chants, 21st century sounds.” But don’t let that strike fear into your soul. This is no mamby pamby attempt to cash in on the unexpected appeal of Gregorian chants with new age backgrounds. Nor is … Continue reading

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Keith Jarrett’s Radiance

Keith Jarrett is a remarkable example of the phenomenon of the performer/composer. Although he is generally considered a jazz pianist — one of the finest — I first became acquainted with his work through his recordings of the twentieth century … Continue reading

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Various artists’ The Social Power of Music

One of my earliest memories, musical or otherwise, is of sitting on my bedroom floor listening to records on my own little portable record player. Among my favorites was a set of albums that collected well-known songs of various styles … Continue reading

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César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor; Igor Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka

Music critic Roger Dettmer of the Chicago American called Pierre Monteux’s performance of César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor “a model of rectitude and dignity.” Anyone who has paid much attention to the course of music in the 19th century, … Continue reading

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Philip Glass/Signal: Glassworks and Music in Similar Motion, Live at Poisson Rouge

Philip Glass’ Glassworks had never been performed in New York until the contemporary ensemble Signal asked Michael Riesman, long-time music director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, to arrange it for live performance. (It was originally conceived for the recording studio.) … Continue reading

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Mandolin Orange’s Tides of a Teardrop

Mandolin Orange, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is one of the most prolific of current Americana acts. Tides of a Teardrop is their sixth since their debut in 2010 with Quiet Little Room, all featuring songs written by Andrew Marlin … Continue reading

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Larry Grenadier’s The Gleaners

I did not know (until I read the publicity material for this record) that Manfred Eicher, founder and chief producer of Germany’s ECM jazz and classical labels, was a former bass player himself. He certainly has set the standard for … Continue reading

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Deer Tick’s Mayonnaise

After the critical and popular success of their 2017 self-titled double release Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Deer Tick Vol. 2, the Rhode Island rockers are back with a beguiling compilation. Mayonnaise is a companion piece to those previous two records, with … Continue reading

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Abigail Lapell’s Getaway

Toronto-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Abigail Lapell follows up her Canadian Folk Music award-winning sophomore album Hide Nor Hair with Getaway. It is a remarkably mature record — both musically and emotionally — for a young musician cutting her third album. … Continue reading

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Mats Eilertsen Trio’s And Then Comes The Night

One of the highlights of 2018 for me was a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand. It’s the site of a breeding colony – one of only two known in the world … Continue reading

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Frigg’s Live and Economy Class

With their self-titled debut CD and their sophomore effort Oasis, Frigg have quickly established themselves as the best young band in Nordic folk music. Finns Antti Järvelä (double bass and fiddle), Esko Järvelä (fiddle and piano), Antti Järvelä (fiddle), Tuomas … Continue reading

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Tiny Ruins’ Olympic Girls

Hollie Fullbrook has an arresting, husky alto that makes her singing stand out immediately. Add that to her multi-faceted songwriting talents and a New Zealand “accent” that’s going to sound pretty exotic to American ears, and Olympic Girls, her first … Continue reading

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Yonathan Avishai’s Joys and Solitudes

For such an economical package — at eight tracks and just 55 minutes, it’s practically an EP by today’s jazz CD standards — Yonathan Avishai’s Joys and Solitudes is brimming with musical riches. On the strength of this album, the … Continue reading

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Johannes Brahms, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77; Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor, Op. 102

There are certain artists whose work becomes an inextricable part of one’s life, whether it be a writer, a painter, or a composer. One develops a sense of the work, sometimes to the point where it all becomes one great … Continue reading

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