This month, we're listening to music of all stripes: jazzy songs from the 1950s, energetic fiddle tunes, tracks that remind us of home, and songs that tell us it's all going to be okay.
George Winston -- Colors / Dance
Leaves changing color... and falling. Whether I'm sitting cozy at a window in my home, looking at backyard trees or driving somewhere to clear my head, this time of year begs me to pull out an old recording titled "Autumn." Pianist George Winston released the album in 1980 and it was reissued in 2001 with an additional track. I have him playing "Colors/Dance" in the background in times of quiet reflection and soul healing.
The Worriers -- WTF Is Sleep
"You’ll feel better if you leave the house, it’s too easy to be hard on yourself.” You know those songs that seem like they were written for you to hear today, though the artist wrote them years ago? I’ve been listening to my “heavy rotation” playlists from a few years ago and when “WTF is Sleep” by The Worriers came on it stopped me in my tracks. Every few days when I’m feeling the crushing weight of pandemic anxiety/loneliness/I’m-not-doing-enough-to-help/existential dread, the opening lines to this song pop into my head and I’m reminded to just step outside (of my apartment, or my head) for a second.
Musica Alta Ripa -- Vivaldi: Concerto for 2 Violincellos, Strings, and B.C., RV 531: I. Allegro
This Thanksgiving and holiday season are going to be a little lonelier than I think we’d all like. Luckily, we have the power of music to stay connected to those normally around us in a time where we can’t meet in person. I, for one, won’t be able to see one of my lifelong friends, who will be stuck in Thailand all season (well, he’s “stuck” on a tropical haven and it’s summer every day, so he’s doing just fine). But I will be able to keep him close via music, and memories through it. In high school, he was a soloist in a Vivaldi double cello concerto, and I’ve been listening to it all fall long. It’s a great piece on its own, but it’s “his” classical piece to me, and rocking out to it is almost as good as any old laggy Zoom call. Now if only I could get to that beach he’s “stranded” on...
bel canto -- Summer
Bel Canto, Depeche Mode, and the soundtrack to Elton John's Aida were equally responsible for raising me, as they were constantly on rotation in my mom's van when I was a kid. Out of those, Bel Canto is decidedly the most obscure - I've never found anything else that quite captures the funky, ethereal feeling of this Norwegian dream-pop-new-age group. And at least once a year, I come back to them for magical forest vibes and a blast of nostalgia.
The Hi-Lo's -- Then I'll Be Tired of You (with the Marty Paich Dek-Tette)
I love listening to the Hi-Lo’s, a vocal group from the late 50’s – they had a unique jazzy sound, with tight harmonies, and impeccable tuning. My wife Janelle and I have been here together through this whole pandemic, day in and day out, and this is for her.
Summit Brass -- Ewazen: Symphony in Brass: Allegro Vivace
There’s definitely a piece of music that’s been in my ears a lot lately. And maybe it’s been in your ears, too! If you were like me earlier this month, you were keeping in close contact with the news, especially when it came to tabulating the results of our national election over the course of five days. And if, like me, one of your regular sources for that news was NPR, you no doubt heard a bright, extremely catchy brass fanfare to ring in each hour of special election coverage. NPR has used it for a number of years, and I’ve always found it to be just right in reflecting the energy and optimism of this country during moments that need that kind of reminder. Now, take a listen to the entire third movement of Eric Ewazen’s Symphony in Brass.
The Fretless -- Wing Commander
I often count on high-energy tunes to keep me going after one too many late nights checking the news (not that I've been doing that lately or anything...). The catch: most of the time, music with lyrics is too distracting, especially when I'm writing. My favorite string band The Fretless solves that problem magnificently, and this track is one I turn to for that energy boost I need.
Hear the full playlist: