Music Review

May Classical Review Roundup

Hélene Grimaud
Water: Berio: Wasserklavier: Sawhney: Water: Transitions 1-7; Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch No. 2; Fauré: Barcarolle No. 5; Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Albéniz: Almeria; Liszt: Les Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Janáček: In the Mist: No. 1; Debussy: La Cathedrale engloutie
(Deutsche Grammophon)
 
Classical purists be warned: almost half the tracks here are not the solo piano recital you might expect from the billing. Instead, Grimaud had composer Nitin Sawhney create electronic bridging miniatures (ranging from 0:56 to 1:41) fitted between the solo piano tracks. This works wonderfully well, changing this album from a traditional presentation into a moody soundscape (though the purist crowd was quick to take offense, witness the extremely snarky review on classicstoday.com). Of course, Grimaud is her usual scintillating self on the solo piano pieces. 

Memorial Music

Memorial Day started spontaneously and independently in several towns and cities in 1866 as a way of honoring soldiers who died in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves -- thus the holiday's old name, Decoration Day.

At first there was not a specific date, but observation was made more uniform starting in 1868; May 30 was chosen, supposedly because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle and because by then flowers would be in bloom throughout the country. 

Song of the Week: Breanna Barbara - "Sailin' Sailin'"

"Sailin' Sailin'" is our perfect perfect song of the week from the NYC-based singer-songwriter Breanna Barbara and pulled from her forthcoming album Mirage Dreams (No Roads Records). Her blissed-out blues conjure up the stripped down mojo of PJ Harvey and early Delta blues. It was produced and recorded by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) at The Bomb Shelter in East Nashville.

Arlene Wolff Does It Again... Over a Half Century Later

"I'm the kind of girl who's tried everything once," Valerine Perrine purrs in Lenny. As Mrs. Bruce in the Bob Fosse film, her claim, let's say, contained slightly off-color elements.

Not so for the chanteuse Arlene Wolff, who can make the same assertion and whose career path followed a similar timeline (the 1960s onward). She, however, always took the high road. Yes, her notable achievements are indisputably aboveboard and even more varied. She opened for Jackie Mason in his early days, toured Europe as a singer of standards, and as Assistant to New York City's Mayor Abraham Beame, Wolff devised the Big Apple's now iconic street fairs. If that were not enough, for you sailor buffs, she organized the arrival of the tall ships in New York Harbor for the Bicentennial. Then because she had some free time on her hands, she married Manhattan's then Chief of Police (Mickey Schwartz) and did a little sheep farming.

Guy Clark, Master Craftsmen, 1941-2016

The year 2016 continues to take some of our best and brightest stars. We have lost Bowie, Prince, Merle, and a slew of others. I don’t have to go through all of the names. I generally put up a quick, "Well, we lost another great one" post on Facebook. This will not be one of those, because the latest loss -- Guy Clark, who passed away on May 17 at the age of 74 -- hits me hard.

Song of the Week: Nada Surf - "Rushing"

Damn, they've done it again! From their latest longplayer You Know Who You Are, my favorite NYC-folk-rock band deliver a perfectly executed subway love song called "Rushing". I've been a fan for years and this is one of the best songs they've ever executed. Two decades in and they are still bursting with smart lyrics and gorgeous sing-along melodies! 10 new tracks available on Barsuk Records. Don't delay, buy them all today!

A Prog-Rock Bonanza: Anthony Phillips Reissued

 
Anthony "Ant" Phillips, an original member of Genesis, left after their second album (Trespass, 1970) because of stage fright -- an especially problematic situation, one supposes, for the lead guitarist. He spent the ensuing years studying music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (which is to say classical music), along with occasionally recording demos of new material at home. It would be seven years before his first solo album would appear, but after that he would be fairly prolific. Though he never achieved mainstream success -- which sadly makes sense given that this progressive rock legend didn't issue anything in 1971-76, the peak prog years -- aficionados of the style have long admired his work. Cherry Red's Esoteric imprint is now in its third year of repackaging Phillips's work with his collaboration, and with the recent issuance of 1979's Sides meaning that all of his '70s albums are now available again as box sets, now seems like a good time to review the story so far.