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July 2018


PICK OF THE MONTH


Danny Green Trio Plus Strings
One Day It Will
OA2
22154

I’ve become a passionate fan of pianist and composer Danny Green, whose trio albums have been among my favorite jazz releases of the last five years or so. On his latest, he combines his trio with a string quartet to brilliant effect. This is not actually his first foray into the trio-plus-quartet format–several tracks on the group’s last album, Altered Narratives, were similarly configured–and it was his previous experiments along this line that led him to want to explore the format further. Jazz-with-strings is treacherous terrain; all too often, the result is either ponderous or silly, and sometimes it’s both, as the composer (who doesn’t usually know enough about classical music to make effective use of an orchestra) tries ineffectually to write something that sounds fancy, or the arranger (who only knows that jazz is supposed to feature flat-9 chords and “swing”) tries clumsily to make the orchestra sound too jazzy. Green avoids these problems in two ways: by keeping the string forces small and nimble, and by being not only a brilliant jazz composer and player but also an exceptionally gifted arranger. The piano trio and the string quartet are integrated beautifully–this doesn’t sound like a jazz combo with strings added on, but like what it is: an organically-conceived chamber septet for which Green has written utterly beautiful pieces that sometimes swing, sometime float, and always shimmer with multicolored light. I can’t overemphasize what a fine album this is. A must for all library collections.


CLASSICAL


Jean-Philippe Rameau
Le Temple de la gloire (2 discs)
Various soloists; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale / Nicholas McGegan & Bruce Lamott
Philharmonia Baroque Productions
PBP-10

Rameau’s infamously political opera Le Temple de la gloire is not exactly a lost work–it has been well known for centuries and multiple recordings of the opera itself and of suites drawn from its orchestral music are available. But this is the world-premiere recording of the original, 1745 version, the version that had to be edited after it both failed commercially and succeeded at offending King Louis XV (criticism of whom had been woven allegorically into Voltaire’s libretto). The original version was lost for centuries, and resurfaced only recently in the library at the University of California, Berkeley. This recording was made live at Cal Performances in 2017, and although the sound quality is a bit dry and shallow and the performances maybe just slightly ragged in places, the music itself is glorious and the historical significance of the recording is beyond question.


Felix Mendelssohn
Complete Works for Cello & Piano
Marcy Rosen; Lydia Artymiw
Bridge (dist. Albany)
9501

Cellist Marcy Rosen and pianist Lydia Artymiw are experienced and widely celebrated artists who bring a particular depth of insight to the chamber music of the 19th century. And nothing rewards that insight and sensitivity quite like the chamber music of Mendelssohn, whose sonatas for cello and piano are among the most lusciously beautiful pieces in the reportoire for those instruments. If only he had written more. This disc includes all of his known works: two sonatas, bookended on the program by the utterly delightful Variations concertantes, op. 17 and the beloved Lied ohne Worte, followed by a brief but transcendent Assai tranquillo. Rosen and Artymiw play with a sense of aching grace and brilliant intercommunication, and are beautifully recorded–the cello, in particular, sounds the way it might if you were sitting inside of it. Highly recommended.


Anton Eberl
Concerto for Two Pianos; Sonatas for Piano Four Hands
Paolo Giacometti; Riko Fukuda; Kölner Akademie / Michael Alexander Willens
CPO (dist. Naxos)
777 733-3

Anton Eberl is another of the legion of composers whose fame during their lifetimes is now matched by their obscurity in modern times; though his name is hardly familiar today, at the height of his career (a brief one; he died of scarlet fever at 41) it was being mentioned in the same breath as Beethoven’s and he was the talk of Vienna. On this disc we get two very different kinds of keyboard works: a concerto for two pianos and orchestra, and two sonatas for piano four hands. All are played on fortepianos by the excellent Paolo Giacometti and Riko Fukuda, and all showcase Eberl’s unusual inventiveness and restrained sense of drama. The Kölner Akademie sound wonderful on the concerto; more recordings by this group of Eberl’s large-scale works would be very welcome — there is at least one other of which I’m aware.


Elena Ruehr
Six String Quartets (2 discs)
Cypress String Quartet; Borromeo String Quartet; Stephen Salters
Avie (dist. Naxos)
AV2379
Rick’s Pick

One of the most delightful and refreshing things about the work of Elena Ruehr is her unwillingness to be bound: her compositions are largely tonal, but draw on serial techniques both to create tension and as a source-bed for lyrical melodic ideas. She uses drones in a manner deeply informed by her education in classical Indian music, and repetition in a way that reflects her experience as a gamelan player. And she writes melodies than can make you weep: just listen to the opening section of her first quartet and see if it doesn’t make your heart soar. Her music is served beautifully by the playing of the Cypress and Borromeo String Quartets here, who were recorded in sessions separated by 10 years. A must for all classical collections.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“Haydn Quartets” (3 discs)
Auryn Quartet
Tacet (dist. Naxos)
972

Since we often think of Franz Joseph Haydn as a secondary figure to Mozart in the classical era, it’s easy to forget what an impact Haydn (who was 24 years his senior) had on the young Mozart–notably in the area of quartet writing. In 1780, Haydn hadn’t written any string quartets in ten years; he returned to the form with his earthshaking opus 33, a set of six pieces that completely changed the way the world would think about the form. Mozart was so impressed that he subsequently wrote six string quartets in tribute, dedicating them to Haydn–and sending them to him under cover of a truly touching letter, in which he referred to the pieces as his “children” and addressed Haydn as “great Man and dearest Friend.” Mozart himself was a mature composer at this point, and these works rank among his finest. Most libraries are likely to own recordings of these monumental pieces already, but the account here by the Auryn Quartet is outstanding and would make a worthy addition to any collection.


Sebastián de Vivanco
Missa Assumpsit Jesus
De Profundis / Robert Hollingworth
Hyperion (dist. PIAS)
CDA68257
Rick’s Pick

Here is an utterly gorgeous disc of choral music by a relatively unknown master of Spanish polyphony. Sebastián de Vivanco was born in Ávila sometime in the mid-16th century and started his career as a boy chorister in the cathedral there. His career eventually took him to several different cities around Spain, and three large collections of his work survive today. The Mass performed here is based on Vivanco’s own motet Assumpsit Jesus Petrum, and it’s presented along with several other motets as well; the program closes with a magisterial Magnificat setting. De Profundis is an all-male choir without trebles, but their sound is rich and full despite the lack of voices above the alto range. Beautiful music, beautifully sung.


Johann Joachim Quantz
Four Concertos for Flute & Strings
Eric Lamb; Die Kölner Akademie / Michael Alexander Willens
Profil/Hänssler (dist. Naxos)
PH18023
Rick’s Pick

There’s nothing quite like a good baroque flute concerto, and few composers wrote more delightful ones than Johann Joachim Quantz, who studied counterpoint under Jan Dismas Zelenka (a criminally underappreciated giant of the period) and flute under Pierre Gabriel Buffardin, and served as flute teacher to Frederick the Great. On this wonderful recording, flutist Eric Lamb performs on an unusually sweet-toned transverse flute and is accompanied by the very fine Kölner Akademie (also on period instruments). There’s much more where this came from–Quantz wrote hundreds of chamber and orchestral works for flute–so here’s hoping we’ll hear more of this repertoire from this outstanding soloist and ensemble.


Orazio Benevolo
Missa Si Deus pro nobis; Magnificat
Le Concert Spirituel / Hervé Niquet
Alpha (dist. Naxos)
400

The package is a little bit misleading here: this recording consists not only of the indicated Mass and Magnificat setting from a neglected master of polychoral Renaissance music (apparently both of them in world-premiere recordings), but also selections from Monteverdi and Palestrina and a brief organ piece by Frescobaldi–all of it organized in such a way as to approximate what an actual church service might have been like during the composer’s time at the Capella Giulia in St. Peter’s Cathedral. To call this music “sumptuous” doesn’t quite do it justice: at some points, no fewer than eight choirs are involved, along with full instrumental forces. As always, Niquet and the Concert Spirituel are magnificent, and this disc can be confidently recommended to all libraries with a collecting interest in Renaissance music.


Peter Garland
Moon Viewing Music (Inscrutable Stillness Studies #1)
William Winant
Cold Blue Music
CB0052

Moving from the sumptuously sublime to the exquisitely quiet, we close out the Classical section with this deeply contemplative work by American composer Peter Garland. Since the piece is written entirely for gongs and tam-tam, you might expect it to be rhythm-based or at least percussive-sounding, but in fact the work consists almost entirely of resonance, with occasional irruptions of arpeggio. To be clear, there is rhythm here, but it’s very slow; there is also pitch, but it is invariably quite low. This is the best kind of minimal music–the kind that draws you in and invites you to hear things you would miss without paying close attention, while at the same time allowing you to simply float and luxuriate in the sound if that’s all you want to do.


JAZZ


Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin
Awase
ECM
2603
Rick’s Pick

Pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch has been leading this boundary-busting quartet (originally a quintet) for about 16 years now, and the group’s work continues to surprise and delight. It now consists of Bärtsch on piano, bassist Thomy Jordi, drummer Kaspar Rast, and bass clarinetist/alto saxophonist Sha, and while the group’s instrumental configuration may seem to place it more or less within the jazz mainstream, the music they play most certainly does not. You’ll rarely, if ever, hear any kind of verse/solos/verse structure in these compositions; instead, they evolve in ways that make it unclear where strict composition ends and improvisation begins. At times you’ll hear echoes of Steve Reich or King Crimson (notice the interlocking odd-time passages throughout “Modul 58,” for example), but mostly what you hear is instantly recognizable as Bärtsch and only Bärtsch. Sometimes hypnotizing, often funky, and sometimes brilliantly disorienting, this is utterly unique and deeply beautiful music.


Daan Kleijn
Passages
Self-released
No cat. no.

One of the things I love about guitarist Daan Kleijn is how easily, naturally, and gently he moves between a straight-ahead swing and a sort of jazzily abstract impressionism. He never plays “out,” exactly, but he can take his melodic explorations and rhythmic elaborations out to the edge in such a subtle way that sometimes you only notice the transition when he and his trio suddenly start swinging and you say to yourself “Oh, they weren’t doing that a minute ago.” His tone is warm without being soft around the edges, and he writes a great tune–on his latest album his two originals nestle with complete comfort into a program that consists otherwise of standards. Another triumph for one of jazz’s major young talents.


Paul Desmond
The Complete Albums Collection 1953-1963 (4 discs)
Enlightenment (dist. MVD)
EN4CD9146

Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond was a pillar of the “cool” jazz community (he came to greatest prominence as a member of Dave Brubeck’s quartet, for which he wrote one of the most popular of all jazz standards, “Take Five”), and the albums he recorded as a leader during the 1950s and early 1960s are among the finest in that style. This four-disc set brings together eight titles from the period, and listening through them one is struck yet again by Desmond’s tone: sweet and soft but firm in the middle, equally informed by the bebop innovations of the previous decade and by the more crooning, vibrato-laden styles of tenor men like Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young in the 1930s. Some of the finest moments here come on his collaborations with baritone saxophonist (and fellow “cool” giant) Gerry Mulligan, but the whole collection is fantastic. As always with these Enlightenment sets, the strength is in the quality of the music and the weakness is in the accompanying materials, which bury musician credits in the liner notes. And some listeners might be slightly nonplussed by the near absence of any break between tracks on the first two discs (due to their overall length–nearly 83 minutes in both cases). Still, the music is marvelous.


Adrian Cunningham & Ken Peplowski
Duologue
Arbors Jazz (dist. MVD)
ARCD 19460
Rick’s Pick

One solid measure of a good month, for me, is whether it includes the receipt of a new album by Ken Peplowski. And with this one I get a bonus: an introduction to the equally fine clarinetist/saxophonist Adrian Cunningham. Supported by the crack rhythm section of pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Martin Wind, and drummer Matt Wilson, they romp their way through an assortment of standards, originals, and should-be-standards (notably Warne Marsh’s wickedly challenging and tremendously fun “Background Music”), some at breakneck bebop tempos and some at a stately midtempo swing, all of them played with audible delight and good humor. Normally I credit a rhythm section most when I notice it least (please understand that I say this as a bassist myself), but in the case of this album I kept finding myself noticing little things that Rosnes, Wind, and (especially) Wilson were doing that very briefly drew attention to themselves–but always in ways that strengthened the tune rather than distracting from it. The liner notes indicate that most of these songs were recorded in only one or two takes, which I find astounding; the whole band sounds like it’s been playing together for decades. Strongly recommended to all jazz collections.


Ken Fowser
Don’t Look Down
Posi-Tone
PR178

Another strong outing by saxophonist and composer Ken Fowser, here operating in the classic tenor-and-trumpet quintet format. Don’t Look Down is an all-originals program, delivered in a strong hard bop style with the occasional excursion into bossa nova (“You’re Better Than That”) and straight bebop (“Top to Bottom”) territories. Highlights include the loping “Divided State,” which reflects its title by alternating between waltz time and a funky 4/4, and the lovely midtempo swinger “I’ll Take It from Here.” As always, Fowser’s sweet-but-powerful tone and his sense of phrasing are central to the band’s appeal, but (as with the Cunningham/Peplowski album recommended above) the rhythm section deserves special credit as well.


Nina Simone
Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles
Bethlehem/BMG
538320282
Rick’s Pick

Nina Simone was, as they say, a piece of work–a fiercely independent, disturbingly violent and very possibly crazy musician of astounding talent and wide-ranging style. At age 25 she entered the studio at Bethlehem Records and recorded fourteen songs that established her as a one-of-a-kind talent: turning her solo on “Love Me or Leave Me” into a baroque-style fugue, inserting a quote from “Good King Wenceslas” into a heartbreaking rendition of “Little Girl Blue,” singing the title track with a strutting confidence that belies her neophyte status at the time. Eleven of the tracks for that session were released as the album Little Girl Blue, and several ended up being released as singles. When “Porgy (I Loves You Porgy)” became a hit, the label started releasing other non-album tracks from the session as singles too, generally in shortened versions. This compilation brings together all fourteen of those songs, and they are a marvel. Bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer “Tootie” Heath appear on several tracks, but many of them are just Simone with her voice and piano. For all libraries.


FOLK/COUNTRY


Willie Nelson
Things to Remember: The Pamper Demos
Real Gone Music
651
Rick’s Pick

Before Willie Nelson was a country music superstar in his own right, he was a Nashville song-factory writer. Employed by the unfortunately-named Pamper Music publishing company (this was in 1960, before disposable diapers existed), Nelson churned out songs at a rate of nearly one per day. He would then call on session players who didn’t have jobs on a particular day and record demos of the songs so that they could be shopped to other singers by Pamper. These demos represent the first-ever recordings of classics like “Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” and “Funny (How Time Slips Away).” Most have been released previously, mainly on quickly thrown-together budget compilations, but this marks the first time they’ve been carefully gathered and curated, with historical information included. The sound quality is surprisingly high for acetate masters, and Nelson is in fine voice on all tracks. This disc’s combination of historical interest and top-notch musical quality makes it a cinch for a Rick’s Pick. For all libraries.


Various Artists
Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey
Smithsonian Folkways
SFW 40228

As a founding member of both the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, mandolinist and singer John Duffey was one of the architects of “progressive bluegrass,” a subgenre characterized by expansive repertoire (often drawing on pop and modern folk music) and a jazz-influenced approach to soloing. He was also an outsized personality, a physically large man with an acerbic wit and a tendency to launch into Elvis impersonations while onstage. His death in 1996 left a large and unique hole in the bluegrass community, and this collection is the result of friends gathering in a variety of configurations over the past 16 years to record songs associated with Duffey: “Poor Ellen Smith,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Reason for Being,” “Sunrise”–all songs and tunes that his legion of fans will remember with fondness. The performances are all heartfelt and expert, and contributors include Dudley Connell, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Ronnie Bowman, and even (get this) Nils Lofgren.


Cliff Westfall
Baby You Win
Self-released
No cat. no.
Rick’s Pick

The press materials characterize Cliff Westfall’s new album as “Americana outside the box,” but it sure sounds like straight-up old-school honky-tonk country music to me. And more power to him, I say. Every once in a while I’ll hear a modern country song while I’m grocery shopping or something, and I ask myself whether the only difference between pop and country is the hat the singer’s wearing and the accent s/he sings with. Westfall himself asks a different question on the same topic: “Hey, does anybody remember laughter?” So he writes songs that partake of the clever wordplay and sharp romantic wit that were the stock in trade of country songwriters 60 years ago, and he plays and sings them (accompanied by the cream of New York City’s Americana session-player crop) in a sweet, clear voice that you could listen to all day. What this is, is country music. The very best kind of country music.


Frank Newsome
Gone Away with a Friend
Free Dirt
DIRT-CD-0084

Like everyone else in the world, you’re probably a fan of the late, great Ralph Stanley–a singer whose style transcended bluegrass and harked back to the deepest traditions of mountain hymnody. It was one of his great characteristics that even when singing a silly novelty song, he could make it sound like there was something deeper behind it. Which, of course, there was: there was Stanley’s faith in God, which was nurtured throughout his adult life by his attendance at the Little David Church, which is presided over by Frank Newsome. Old Regular Baptist singing is in the “lined-out” style (in which the preacher sings a line of the hymn, which is then repeated back by the congregation), and Old Regular Baptist preaching cannot be entirely separated from singing. This recording of Frank Newsome–singing alone without accompaniment or congregation, except on one song–was made over the course of a summer evening at his church in 2006, and it is hair-raisingly eerie and beautiful. The program closes with prayer–which, inevitably, eventually lapses into song. For all folk collections.


ROCK/POP


Wire
Pink Flag (reissue; 2 discs)
Pink Flag
11SE
Rick’s Pick

A wise person once said “beware of ‘important’ albums; they’re like ‘interesting’ people.” Fair enough, and point taken, but here’s the thing: the first three albums by Wire are important, and interesting, and also really, really great. They basically laid out the conceptual map not only for post-punk, but also for art punk–a map that would later be followed in a variety of ways by equally important/interesting bands like Mission of Burma, Gang of Four, and R.E.M. (who covered “Strange” on their blockbuster Document album). Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978), and 154 (1979) have been reissued before, but never like this: in multi-disc editions (featuring the predictable generous grab-bag of demos and alternative versions) packaged with hardback books filled with photos and essays. I didn’t get to see the full packages, but I’m sure they’re great. The music is phenomenal, and for those who are hearing Wire for the first time it will be a revelation: sharp, angular, simultaneously weird and very tightly focused–most songs on Pink Flag clock in at under two minutes, and several are shorter than one minute. By the third album the band was getting much stranger and more experimental; if you have to pick only one, Pink Flag is definitely the place to start.


Prefuse 73
Sacrifices
Lex
406

I’m not sure I totally believe Wikipedia that Prefuse 73’s birth name is Guillermo Scott Herren–it seems too perfect and convenient somehow–but who knows; the universe is full of surprises. One thing is clear, though: the days when we could glibly categorize his music as “instrumental hip hop” are long over. On Sacrifices, he gets deep into the abstract sampladelic weirdness–which isn’t to say that the music isn’t rhythmic, and even sometimes genuinely funky, only that it’s consistently too weird and not funky enough to bear anything but the most passing resemblance to hip hop. On this album it’s consistently gentle, fascinating, and beautiful, constantly upending your expectations and replacing them with something better than what you expected (a small bass clarinet here, a soully vocal there, a steel guitar over there). Best song title: “We Lost Our Beat Tapes in Mecca.” Highly recommended to all pop collections.


Logistics
Hologram
Hospital (dist. Redeye)
NHS322CD

People use lots of different words to describe drum’n’bass (intense, frenetic, busy) but “gorgeous” isn’t usually one of them. Even the subgenre known as “liquid drum’n’bass” is usually more about being chill than about generating actual beauty. But listen to the latest outing from Hospital Records mainstay Logistics, and see if you don’t find yourself actually responding to tracks like “The Light without You” (featuring vocalist Salt Ashes) and “In Your Eyes” with something very much like a swoon. Now as for me personally, I wouldn’t have minded an amen break or two somewhere in the mix to break things up a bit and give the proceedings a bit more busyness and intensity–but that’s just me. And that’s not to take anything away from this album, which is gorgeous.


East Man
Red, White & Zero
Planet Mu (dist. Redeye)
ZIQ395
Rick’s Pick

We tend to think of hip hop as an American art form that has spread around the world, which of course it is. But it’s important to remember that while American-style hip hop has been adopted internationally, it’s also true that hip hop has been adapted worldwide, and in some places has evolved separately into something uniquely local. This is definitely the case in London, where grime has turned from a variant of hip hop into, basically, a local response to it. Inevitably, grime itself has spawned a million children and the term itself is now almost as much a cliché as “rap” is. One of those children is what Anthoney Hart (producing as East Man) calls “hi tek”: it’s a grime varietal notable for its dark atmospheres, its booming starkness, and its ability to attract A-list MC talent that most Americans have never heard of: Killa P, Darkos Strife, Eklipse, Kwam. These are rappers who amble around the rhythm more than they ride it, who mumble rather than spit, who talk about a reality that I can’t even pretend to know anything about. It’s powerful despite, and maybe even because of, its narrow cultural focus. A must for pop collections.


R.E.M.
The Spirit of Radio: Classic Broadcast Recordings (3 discs)
Parallel Lines (dist. MVD)
PLCD027

This box is actually a cobbled-together set of three discs, each originally released on a different label: two are radio broadcasts of live performances (the first from 1984, the second from 1989) and one is a collection of interview snippets gathered from various points in the band’s history. The interview disc will be of interest to hardcore fans only; it’s the first two discs that make this box particularly interesting for libraries. The first one (titled Right on Target) documents a New Jersey show early in the band’s career and showcases a scrappy, talented, and deeply idiosyncratic college band just starting to hit its stride. The second (Songs for a Green World), from 1989, reveals one of the finest rock’n’roll bands in American history–probably the only one to ever cover both Pylon and Mission of Burma in the same set. The contrast is startling and thrilling, and both concerts are well recorded.


WORLD/ETHNIC


Lucibela
Laço Umbilical
Lusafrica (dist. MVD)
762562

Frequently cited as heir apparent to the tradition of the great Cabo Verdean singer Cesaria Evora, Lucibela Freitas Dos Santos is actually an artist with a powerful style and voice all her own, one who embraces traditional song genres like morna and coladera while not hesitating to incorporate elements of samba or whatever else will serve the song. Her voice is an utter delight–supple and flexible and clear–but she never indulges in emotional dramatics or look-at-me technical gymnastics; arranger Toy Vieira follows her lead in that regard, creating subtle, jewel-box-like arrangements for these heart-tuggingly beautiful songs. Highly recommended to all collections.


U Brown
Repatriation (reissue)
Burning Sounds (dist. MVD)
BSRCD935

The Burning Sounds label is doing righteous work in bringing long-out-of-print reggae recordings back to market, often with generous portions of bonus material appended. This isn’t the first time U Brown’s 1979 deejay classic Repatriation has gotten the deluxe-reissue treatment (a 2000 issue on the French Patate label included a whole different set of bonus tracks), but it’s the only such version currently available in a circulatable format. In addition to the album’s original ten tracks, this one adds material from a 10″ EP by deejay named Dickie Ranking. The latter worked in a more 1980s dancehall style (with occasional incursions of America hip hop flavor), and the pairing of these two releases doesn’t make much obvious sense–but both of them are quite good. Honestly, I came to this disc as an established U Brown fan and came away from it wanting to know much more about Dickie Ranking.


Nsimbi
Nsimbi
Imara/Baboon Forest
No cat. no.
Rick’s Pick

This album is the fruit of a romantic and musical partnership between Ugandan hip-hop artist and storyteller GNL Zamba and American singer-songwriter Miriam Tamar, who met in a Ugandan recording studio and have since become globe-trotting ambassadors for social uplift. Each of the songs on their debut album is built around a different Swahili proverb and is sung and/or rapped in a variety of languages, over a bed of musical backing that draws variously on soukous, hip hop, griot, and other stylistic elements. The sound ripples and flows like a stream over a rock bed, warm and cool at the same time, and the quiet intensity of Zamba’s declamations contrasts beautifully with the lilting beauty of Tamar’s singing. Highly recommended to all collections.


Various Artists
Unit 137 Vol. 1
Unit 137
No cat. no.
Rick’s Pick

Not really a band, not exactly a label, only sort of a sound system, Unit 137 is a musical collective based in Southeast London and dedicated to creating culturally conscious roots and dancehall reggae, showcasing a wide variety of vocal talent. The collective has released lots of singles over the past couple of years, and their debut full-length album (which features some of those singles) features star turns by artists we’ve come to recognize and love: OnlyJoe, Ed West, Sleepy Time Ghost, Jago, and a few new faces, and honestly there is not a single weak track here. These guys show conclusively that you can make deep roots reggae that simultaneously celebrates the heritage of that music and expands its boundaries. This one is an absolute must for any library with even the slightest collecting interest in reggae.


Los Texmaniacs
Cruzando Borders
Smithsonian Folkways
SFW 40576

Few living musicians are as well-situated to convey the richness of the conjunto tradition as Max Baca, who came up as the son of a leading accordion player in Albuquerque and eventually picked up the bajo sexto, becoming so accomplished on that instrument that he was tapped to tour behind such legends as Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm, and even Flaco Jimenez. On Cruzando Borders he and his band deliver a solid set of polkas, rancheras, redovas, corridos and more, sometimes singing in English and sometimes in Spanish, sometimes nodding to country music and sometimes digging as deeply as possible into the conjunto verities. And there’s even a cameo appearance by Lyle Lovett.


Anandi Bhattacharya
Joys Abound
Riverboat (dist. Redeye)
TUGCD1116
Rick’s Pick

I first encountered singer Anandi Bhattacharya when she made a guest appearance on an album by her father, the legendary Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya a few years ago (you can also see them perform together in a magnificent NPR Tiny Desk Concert). In my review of that album, I characterized her singing as “dumbfoundingly beautiful,” and I remember wishing at the time that she’d make a solo album. Well, now she has, and of course it’s spectacular. It’s not a performance of classical ragas, but rather a collection of songs both old and new that explore her musical roots while at the same time ranging well beyond traditional musical boundaries. Her voice remains a thing of wonder, and she is accompanied by the cream of India’s crop of traditional musicians, including her father. A must for all world-music collections.

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About Rick Anderson

I'm Associate Dean for Collections and Scholarly Communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

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  1. Pingback: September 2018 | CD HotList

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