Recent Listening

Recommended discs new and old:

Live at Bradley’s II: The Perfect Set – Kenny Barron Trio. A superb set from 1996, featuring two Monk compositions, plus a Monk inspired Barron original. Barron’s piano is masterly, Ray Drummond’s bass warm and clear, Ben Riley’s drums subtle, the recorded sound exceptionally fine, and the groove astonishingly relaxed yet propulsive.

Mozart: Don Giovanni – Ghiaurov, Crass, Watson, Gedda, Ludwig, Berry, Freni, Montarsolo; New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus; Otto Klemperer. This is a classic release from 1966, with a (nearly) all-star cast. Gedda’s sweet timbre, and Freni’s freshness are standouts.

Daniel Asia: Of Songs and Psalms – Arizona-based composer’s latest disc includes his fifth Symphony – a song-symphony on texts by Yehuda Amichai, Paul Pines, and Hebrew and English prayers. It seems to be American composers who insist that the genre of symphony is not dead, with Harbison, Zwillich, Wernick, Hartke, Corigliano, and Rouse among the practitioners, alongside Asia. (Adams writes symphonies in all but the title.) The combination of vernacular texts plus Hebrew sacred texts in this piece recalls Harbison’s Four Psalms, but there the discourse is more obviously symphonic in scale (though it is not called a symphony). Asia’s piece is more of a song cycle, with relatively short settings. Its symphonic nature is more cumulative than apparent in the individual units. The text settings are natural in declamation and varied in character – from the Kurt Weill-ish “Through Two Points Only”, to more sober meditations. A Nonet for winds and strings rounds out the album with, crisp, clear, dissonant counterpoint, couched in an intriguing form – six movements, with 1, 3 and 5 brief variations on the same material, 2, 4, and 6 more substantial statements. Performances are excellent throughout the album.

Siren – Uri Caine Trio – Eleven Caine originals, plus “Green Dolphin Street”, all filtered through Caine’s polyvalent sensibility. Free stuff, hard swing, motivically economical atonality, tricky metric games – Caine’s is an eloquence that melds multiple voices. John Hébert, bass, and Ben Perowsky, drums, are his co-conspirators in music that refuses to be tied down. Here is a concert by the trio from the Library of Congress in 2010:

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