Recent Listening

I have a backlog of CDs that I’ve not yet mentioned here, will try to catch up a bit. Here are three recent items:

UnknownJohn Zorn: The Mysteries – Bill Frisell, guitar; Carol Emanuel, harp; Kenny Wollesen, vibraphone, chimes.

I was disappointed in this album. While the instrumentation guarantees a certain degree of prettiness – perhaps too much; and while Frisell – who is the focus here – is a master of varied guitar colors, the music itself is mostly rather square and bland, built on simplistic ostinatos. A few tracks have more rhythmic or harmonic or textural interest, but the dreaded phrase “new age” came to mind.

Unknown-1Estampies & Danses Royales – Hesperion XXI, Jordi Savall.

Instrumental music from the late 13th and early 14th centuries, in imaginative realizations, sensitively played. The flavor is rather folky, a bit heavy on percussion, and includes a good bit of improvisation. In Savall’s nice phrase, this is an example of “historically creative performance”.


imagesThe Complete Blue Note Recordings – Thelonious Monk.

George Rochberg used to complain that highly chromatic music usually ended up in some darkly expressionist emotional realm. But here’s a body of work that is often angular and chromatic, yet decidedly joyous and vital. This 4 disc set includes the classics that you heard in jazz history class, but offers a much fuller picture, including alternate takes as well an entire disc devoted to a live recording with Coltrane. Other musicians heard here include Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, Kenny Dorham, and Max Roach, to name just a few. As I have said before, those of us who write (mostly) notated music have much to learn from the classic (and contemporary) music of our composing/improvising brethren.

Coming Attractions – 2011-2012

– Go here for a press release on the upcoming Miller Theater season, including a massive James Dillon 3-night extravaganza and Composer Portraits including John Zorn and George Lewis.

– the Orchestra 2001 website lists three programs for next year, with Boulez, Adams, Pärt, Andriessen, and a Crumb premiere – the seventh book in his remarkable American Songbook series.

CityMusic Cleveland offers 24 free concerts next season.

Network for New Music’s focus is on what they are calling Word Music, with big pieces by Lewis Spratlan and Matthew Greenbaum, and collaborations including one with The Crossing.