Instant Replay: 051
Ed Motta — 1978
After reading Laura Carlo's new blog about the Moon, I was inspired to listen to my favorite Moon-related song: "The Night Belongs to Mona" by Donald Fagen. When the song ended, my Spotify algorithm offered me up this sweet tune. The groove felt reminiscent of later Steely Dan, and when Ed Motta sang the first words, I thought "Donald Fagen sang in Portugese??"
Motta's voice sounds like a rich blend of Donald Fagen and Bobby Caldwell, with just a dash of Stevie Wonder. A quick google search revealed that AOR, the album that "1978" is on, was written by Ed Motta in homage to Steely Dan and the yacht rock genre. If you're a fan of either, or simply a fan of Brazilian funk, I recommend you check it out!
Hilary Hahn — Ysaÿe: Sonata No. 2 in A minor, “Obsession”
I’m a newcomer to Ysaÿe’s violin sonatas, and this piece blew my mind. When I heard “Obsession” for the first time, I thought something was wrong with the streaming service I was using, because while the album clearly stated that the music was by Ysaÿe, Hilary Hahn was playing Bach. Then, a few seconds later, that familiar piece exploded into one of the coolest deconstructions of Bach I’ve ever heard. The rest of the piece unspools in wild, fantastical directions, but always keeps Bach at its core.
USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir — Schnittke: Choir Concerto
Lately, I have been unable to pull myself away from Alfred Schnittke’s Choir Concerto. A hulking work for a capella choir, Schnittke’s work both honors the rich musical history of the choir concerto (spanning over 200 years and with such composers as Berezovsky, Chesnokov, and Rachmaninoff contributing to the genre), and pushes the genre to its absolute limit. The work is informed by Gregorian chant practice, Renaissance-era polyphony, modernist conventions, and his own Russian musical heritage, but Schnittke envelopes you in a world of sound that is entirely his own, taking the listener on a journey that is greater than the sum of its parts. This recording by the USSR Ministry of Culture is nothing short of breathtaking.
The Japanese House, MUNA — Morning Pages
I haven’t been listening to a lot of music lately, although I’ve been tearing through some great audiobooks (shoutout to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, what a romp), but for some reason I can’t get enough of this song in particular. The roving lyrics make it feel like a diary entry. Plus, you can never go wrong where MUNA is involved!
Sutton Foster — Air Conditioner
I first heard this song about ten years ago, in another hot and muggy summer — I gotta say, the sentiments it expresses hold true. Christine Lavin's original recording is great, but I am a sucker for any growling brass, and Sutton Foster isn't half bad as a singer (read: she is, in fact, astonishing. Pun intended.)
The TANK Center for Sonic Arts — Slow Beethoven
The recipe here is pretty simple: first, have Lara St. John, Miranda Cuckson, Milan Milisavljevic, and Jeffrey Zeigler play the fugue from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor about seven times slower than normal, making what's usually a seven-minute piece 45 minutes long. Then play that recording through speakers set up in an empty, seven-story water tower where the structure's natural resonance can sustain notes up to 40 seconds, and capture the luscious, graceful, mesmerising sonic result of those elements coming together. This clip is a taste of what's in store for those 45 mind-salving minutes.
Joe Cuba Sextet — Mujer Divina
When I'm not on WCRB air from noon to four on Sunday afternoons, one of the things I do is to play sax and flute and sing in a Latin Bugalú band called Lookie Lookie. We specialize in Newyoriquen music of the 1960s.
Here's a song we recently added to our repertoire, Joe Cuba's version of a classic bolero by Héctor Rivera, "Mujer Divina." Joe Cuba — born in the Bronx of Puerto Rican parents — was a successful bandleader and conguero from the 1950s through the 1980s, even scoring a Top 40 pop hit with "Bang Bang" in 1967. His work spans numerous Latin styles and successfully integrates English language pop. But "Mujer Divina" is pure, heartfelt Latino crooning by Willie Garcia.
Bruce Springsteen — Mary's Place
Twenty years ago, I went with friends to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Dodger Stadium. To this day I get goosebumps — and sing right along — when I hear Springsteen's "Mary's Place." On an album (The Rising) that explores post-9/11 loss and grief, "Mary's Place" is a beacon of joyful hope that takes on a life of its own when performed (or enjoyed) live. "Turn it up, turn it up, turn it up, turn it up, turn it up, turn it up, turn it up!"
Listen to this month's playlist, and find the full, cumulative playlist here.