Instant Replay: 057
Linos Ensemble – Louise Farrenc: Piano Trio No. 4
One good thing you can say about the frigid temps we've been experiencing is that they give you (or at least me) the chance to just stay indoors and get things done, like going through my CD collection. I picked up a new CD issued last fall by the CPO label: Louise Farrenc, Piano Trios 2 & 4, with the Linos Ensemble. If people know Louise Farrenc's name at all, it's usually for her larger orchestral works, including three symphonies. This time around, the Linos Ensemble treats her chamber music with charm and care, and it has become a favorite for background music in my house, especially her Piano Trio No. 4. Your indoor chores will be much easier to take with the music on this CD floating in the air....
boygenius, Ye Vagabonds — The Parting Glass
2023 was an extraordinary year for boygenius, who followed their first full-length album with a tour and 7 Grammy nominations. Just before the holidays, boygenius and Irish folk duo Ye Vagabonds closed out the year with one last single, the traditional folk song “The Parting Glass,” as a heartfelt tribute to the late Sinéad O’Connor. An ode to farewells, boygenius sings it as gentle winding-down for the year that was: “Good night, and joy be with you all.”
Jung Kook — Standing Next to You
Listen. It's January. It's gray, cold, wet. Some might even say depressing. But this song and the album it's from have played a major role in making my January feel more like May, or even June! "Standing Next to You" is the single off of Golden, Jung Kook's debut studio album after a decade of making music as a member of the Korean boy band and international sensation BTS. This song has it all: a funky bass line, soulful tenor singing, a distinct flavor of 1980s American R&B and 1990s neo soul, unusual harmonic choices, a dance break, AND three different music videos amassing a collective 123 million views on Youtube (for anyone who wants to learn the dance, watch this one!).
Béla Fleck - Rhapsody in Blue(grass)
As a longtime fan of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, I’ve heard many an interpretation over the years. Starting with the piano-roll of ol’ George himself playing it, to Disney’s animated take in Fantasia 2000 (with the marvellous Ralph Grierson at the keyboard), I've found something to enjoy in just about every rendition I’ve heard — and this one is terrific! Béla Fleck’s been playing the symphonic version, then while on tour with My Bluegrass Heart, he had the wild idea of combining the two, saying "it was either the greatest idea or possibly the very worst I had ever thought of." I think the results speak for themselves — certainly a different take, but one I enjoy greatly, and all the more for the creativity of arranging involved in Gershwin's bluegrass transformation!
Jerskin Fendrix — Bella; Poor Things (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
I was able to catch the delightfully weird Poor Things in theaters recently, and while I loved almost everything about the film (Emma Stone as the protagonist in a quirky retelling of the Frankenstein story set in a steampunk-y Victorian England, what’s not to love?), I especially loved the score. Composer Jerskin Fendrix, in his film score debut, simply knocked it out of the park. Known for previous collaborations with Black Midi, he perfectly captures the playful, off-kilter nature of the film while simultaneously intensifying the drama of the more serious and somber scenes throughout. If you aren’t able to catch the film before it leaves theaters, at the very least I would HIGHLY encourage listening to the score.
Rhiannon Giddens — You Louisiana Man
The GRAMMYs are coming up on February 4th, and it’s always a pleasure to listen through the nominated albums. Rhiannon Giddens’s latest is a virtuosic wide-ranging fun-fest in its entirety, and it’s hard to pick one track to highlight, but You Louisiana Man is also nominated in its own right, and you’ll have it stuck in your own head after a listen or two.
Clifford Brown, Max Roach Quintet — Delilah
January 10th was the 100th birth anniversary of jazz immortal Max Roach. In the 1940s and '50s, he led the way in advancing the melodic and compositional possibilities of the drum kit — an American invention created around 1900 — playing with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Abbey Lincoln, to name a few. Max continued as a band leader, civil rights activist, educator and composer until his passing in 2007. It's impossible to overstate how much he changed the way drums are played — all contemporary drummers and beat makers are, in an important sense, his descendants.
It's not easy to pick one track that represents Max's huge and diverse oeuvre, so here's one of my personal faves, from the band he co-led with trumpeter Clifford Brown. "Delilah" has a fascinating backstory: Cecil B. DeMille was inspired by the Saint-Saëns opera Samson and Delilah, and eventually produced and directed a film starring Tyrone Power and Hedy Lamarr (whose own life story is simply beyond belief). DeMille didn't use the Saint-Saëns music, but commissioned Victor Young ("Stella By Starlight") to write a lush orchestral score. Max and Clifford turned it into a jazz classic.
Hear this month's playlist: