MUSIC MISCELLANY (all highly acclaimed)

MUSIC MISCELLANY (all highly acclaimed)

Norman Warwick gathers the recommendations from the best

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.

At The Checkout he spoke of how our beloved jazz scene was crushed by COVID-19 in more ways to remember. the Checkout is, he said, trying to infuse some bright moments during these dark times. It has in the past spotlighted musicians quick to adapt with astonishing innovation: he pointed out pianist Dan Tepfer beaming-in others with his telematic performances. Singer Thana Alexa immediately pivoted to present the livestream series Live From Our Living Rooms.

The Checkout has sent a healing message from pianist Nduduzo Makahtini, who is also known as a Sangoma, a traditional healer in South Africa. The pianist Brad Mehldau persevered by writing a gorgeous suite mostly inspired by being at home with his family.

Bela Fleck

I suppose that was one silver lining for many of us: we had a chance to reconnect deeply with our closest family, a detail lovingly portrayed in Alone Together Duets, a series co-produced with Sarah Geledi, from Jazz Night in America. The Checkout have also brought two recent heart-warming additions by Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn from Nashville and Mike and Leni Stern from Manhattan.

WBGO’s Special Projects Producer Trevor Smith and Rentner paused to reflect on these strange yet beautiful occurrences, which will hopefully bring a smile to your face too. They kicked off with a radiant single which just dropped: “Get Sun” by Hiatus Kiayote featuring Authur Verocai.

So, get excited everyone. A music is healing. and showing that even  during what has been the worst of years it has still imitated, innovated and inspired.. Here comes the sun, and it is blazing new music being highly praised by the jazz press.

Jeff Tamarkin, (shown right) for example is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News,  Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopaedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records. So, we should perhaps pay attention to his Jazz Times review of an album called Midnight Shelter.

Like most other working musicians, vocalist Sachal Vasandani and pianist Romain Collin (left) have spent the past year replacing plans with spontaneous actions, so the New York-based friends agreed to meet up at a Brooklyn studio over a couple of days last summer and just wing it. The result is a thoroughly amiable program of intimate ballads, a low-key, feather-light affair consisting primarily of covers with a few original numbers tossed in.

Midnight Shelter, willfully, never raises the temperature. Collin’s accompaniments avoid histrionics and Vasandani largely keeps things toned down as well, his heartfelt, hushed vocal approach recalling the subtleties of Chet Baker, Kenny Rankin or, on the pop side, Donovan or Devendra Banhart.

Another reference point would be Nick Drake, the long-deceased British singer/songwriter whose “River Man” is one of the 11 duets presented here. Drake’s original, bathed in an orchestral arrangement, is stripped down to its essence here, the interpretation retaining his ethereal patina while bringing an even more melancholy tenor to the song. Whether taking on music from the catalogs of Abbey Lincoln (“Throw It Away”), the Beatles (“Blackbird”), or Bob Dylan (“Don’t Think Twice,” perhaps the album’s most upbeat number), Vasandani and Collin drill to each piece’s core and discover how best to mold it into something distinctively their own.

A couple of offbeat tracks surprise by their inclusion alone: “Dance Cadaverous,” from Wayne Shorter’s classic Speak No Evil, is utterly transformed into a tranquil meditation (with words added by the singer), while “Adore You,” a song from the contemporary heartthrob Harry Styles’ Fine Line album, is divested of its shiny production, recasting its frothy lyrics into an almost somber contemplation of the splendour of love.

Matt Macucci

Matt Macucci at Jazziz is another  writer that I not only enjoy reading but also trust as a guide across jazzlands. He recently reviewed some great new music in a weekly New Release Cheat Sheet. I am not sure what is the implied cheating of that title, though, as I found his references, to recordings from singer/songwriter Norah Jones and legendary ensemble Tower of Power,  yo be what I most enjoy in a review. he is an insightful, informed and informative writer who so enthuses that I often immediately buy something simply on his recommendation. He never lets me down ! On this particular New Release Cheat Sheet he also reviewed a stunning track from Min Xiao-Fen’s soundtrack to the 1934 silent film masterpiece The Goddess.

Champaka (The Flower King)  is the first single from White Lotus, the forthcoming album, set for release on June 25th, by multi-instrumentalist/singer/composer Min Xiao-Fen. White Lotus is the original soundtrack that she composed for The Goddess, a 1934 silent film masterpiece from China’s cinematic golden age. Champaka (The Flower King) features Min Xiao-Fen on ruan – a traditional Chinese plucked instrument – as well as acclaimed guitarist Rez Abbasi.

Norah Jones

Macucci also reported that singer/songwriter/pianist Norah Jones is set to release ‘Til We Meet Again, her first full-length live album ever, on April 16 via Blue Note. The LP compiles 14 songs spanning her entire career, recorded in various parts of the globe between 2017 and 2019. The announcement comes with the release of the album’s first single. It Was You, recorded at the 2018 Ohana Festival in Dana Point, California, and performed with Pete Remm on organ, Christopher Thomas on bass, and Brian Blade on drums.  (Although I am only a Wayfaring Stranger from the fields of Americana music, who has crossed the border almost accidentally into jazzland, I know of Norah jones because she opened her career with a couple of intriguing albums covering a couple of tracks by legendary America writers, so I shall seek out this album as soon as possible, it being recommended by Micucci and all)

Say What? is the funky opener from virtuosic trombonist/composer Eric Goletz’s forthcoming album, Into the Night. This 30 years in the making project finds Goletz featuring his trombone as the lead instrument in a fusion setting. The experiment works and is presented here within a program mixing funk, rock and jazz sounds into a unique sonic blend, performed with his fiery six-piece band. Into the Night is due out April 2 via Consolidated Artists Publications.

Brooklyn-based, Baltimore-raised songwriter Aaron Frazer made his late-night television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he performed Lover Girl from his debut album, Introducing… out now on Dead Oceans/Easy Eye Sound. Frazer first rose to fame as the drummer/vocalist of Durand Jones & The Indications and this song, is described in Jazziz by Matt Macucci as a delightful blend of doo-wop, jazz and funk. The charming performance is the first time Frazer performed Lover Girl live.

Breathe is trailblazing Hammond B-3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s third album of dynamic music since his 2016 return to the Blue Note label. The record features him with his steady trio with Jonathan Kriesberg and Johnathan Blake, as well as an expanded septet and guest vocalist Alicia Olatuja. Six of the tracks were recorded during the NEA Jazz Master’s 75th birthday celebration at the Jazz Standard in New York City in 2017 and the remaining two are captivating studio collaborations with rock icon Iggy Pop.

Macucci also reviews a piece from Sspiritual jazz pioneer and saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders, teamed up with electronic producer Floating Points (a.k.a. Sam Shepherd) on a new album, Promises, out via Luaka Bop. Composed of nine movements of various lengths, Promises was recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra. This is the first time all three parties have collaborated on a project, which also marks Sanders’ first new music in ten years. 

In June 2018, legendary soul, funk and R&B outfit Tower of Power returned to their homeland of Oakland, California, to celebrate, over the course of two memorable nights, half a century of music. 50 Years Of Funk captures the magic of this extravaganza for which bandleader / saxophonist Emilio Castillo invited some of the band’s alumni to join its renowned modern 10-piece line-up. The full release comes in a variety of formats, including a 3-LP set, a 2-CD/DVD combo, a standalone DVD, as well as digitally. 

So, although we seem to have had a succession of false dawns over this past year or so, all promising a return to normality, we can at least enjoy a plethora of great sounds in the privacy of our ´bubble´ with a selection from this musical miscellany identified by some of the best magazine-writers, and pod and radio broadcasters as we await the return of live music. 


The Checkout

Jazz Times


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It might be just another few weeks before residents of the UK and some other European countries are able to return for a holiday to Lanzarote, or perhaps even decide to make their first holiday for a long time to also be their first holiday here on the island. If and when those tourists arrive here they will receive a warm welcome, and not only because they represent a massive and disproportionate percentage of earnings for the island and its inhabitants. The welcome, though, will be a reflection of our pride in our island and how much pleasure we take in sharing its rugged but lovely landscape. Sidetracks and Detours offer you an opportunity to spend a ´virtual´ week FREE oF Lanzarote to whet your appetite for when the travel industry returns to some normality,

Our free festival begins on Monday 26th April 2021, and we will begin by introducing you to a Swedish couple who have made their life here on the island over the last forty years and will tell you all about The Lanzarote Iron Man. We will take you to the vertiginous cliff-tops where local islanders used to shimmy up and down to pluck berries that created a beautiful dye that for three centuries was a major trading item on the island. We will take you on a guided walk along our Northern coastline with its ancient wells and cindered volcano trails, and we will give you a glimpse of the meadows of wildflower and pampas grass that has been in such profusion this year. On the final day we will show you our incredible theatre venues and introduce you to some of our finest musicians before bringing our free virtual tour to an end in time for you to phone your travel agents and book the first available flight over here.

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