Records 2 Live 4 2023 Page 3

Tom Conrad


Ryan Truesdell: Lines of Color: Gil Evans Project Live at Jazz Standard
Orchestra with varied combinations of 25 musicians, Ryan Truesdell, cond.
Blue Note/ArtistShare ASBN 0133 (CD/download). 2015. Ryan Truesdell, Dave Rivello, prods.; James Farber, Tyler McDiarmid, Geoff Countryman, engs.

Over the last 10 years, Ryan Truesdell has devoted much of his life to keeping the music of a great composer/ arranger alive. His Gil Evans Project has made two albums that are indisputably records to die for. The first, Centennial, gets the most attention. But the second, Lines of Color, is rich with gems too: an epic, nine-minute reimagining of the Evans/Miles Davis masterpiece "Time of the Barracudas," for instance, and Marshall Gilkes's trombone tour de force of "Greensleeves." It is also one of the most believable sonic representations ever achieved of a big band in a jazz club. It was recorded live at the late lamented Jazz Standard in New York.


Charles Lloyd & The Marvels: I Long To See You
Charles Lloyd, tenor saxophone, alto flute; Bill Frisell, guitar; Reuben Rogers, bass; Eric Harland, drums; Greg Leisz, steel guitar; Willie Nelson, vocals, guitar (one track); Norah Jones, vocals (one track).
Blue Note B002127702 (CD/ download/LP). 2016. Dorothy Darr, Charles Lloyd, Don Was, prods.; Dom Camardella, eng.

This record was Charles Lloyd's second for Blue Note after he left ECM in 2015. There was concern in some quarters that it might be a sellout because there is a track with Willie Nelson and one with Norah Jones. In fact, I Long to See You is a profound testament, a summation, based on hymns ("Abide with Me") and traditional folk songs ("Shenandoah," "All My Trials"). Such foundational texts allow Lloyd to, as he puts it, "go direct": The long calls of his tenor saxophone come straight from his soul and express truths so lasting they need only be whispered.

Brian Damkroger


FM: The Original Movie Soundtrack
MCA Records MCA-12000 (2 LPs). 1978. Al Schmitt, Roger Nichols, engs.

Let's be honest here, FM was at best a mediocre movie. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone I liked. But this is R2L4, not DVD2L4, and FM's soundtrack is a solid, if a bit mainstream, adult-oriented rock playlist from the late '70s. The songs are all great, but a few, such as Linda Ronstadt's live covers of "Tumbling Dice" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," are outstanding. The consistency and strength of this compilation have been borne out by its enduring appeal. It just feels right—like a cohesive musical time capsule. The original UK release is a little quieter, more detailed, and tonally richer than the US one (MCA2-12000), but you can't go wrong with either.


Vivaldi: The Four Seasons; Violin Concertos RV 375, RV 277, Il Favorito, RV 271 L'amoroso
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan, cond.; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin.
Philharmonia Baroque Productions PBP-03 (CD). 2011. David v.R.Bowles, prod., eng.

As any classical music lover knows, there are countless recordings of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. Like many classical music lovers, I too have several recordings of the work, some of which are excellent. The one I keep returning to, though, is this performance by San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Everything about it—from the unique harmonic structures of the period instruments to the immediacy of its sound—is superb. Nicholas McGegan's interpretation of this work is more evocative than many others', ranging from the tranquil to the tempestuous. Elizabeth Blumenstock indulges McGegan's vision with a virtuoso performance that renders a highly distinctive depiction of each season.

Tom Fine


Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser: Wanted! The Outlaws
RCA APL1-1321 (LP), 07863-66841-2 (20th anniversary CD). 1976/1996. Jerry Bradley, prod. (1976); Steve Lindsey, prod. (1996).

The first country album to go Platinum started as RCA's attempt to cash in on the outlaw country movement that had reached fruition in Willie Nelson's successful Red Headed Stranger. Producer Jerry Bradley mined the vaults for unreleased tracks to be made into new remixes, and this 20th anniversary CD edition includes twice as much music and a then-new duet by Jennings and Nelson. Curiously, the Glaser tracks don't stream.


Little Feat: Waiting For Columbus Live Deluxe
Rhino 680966 (CD). 1978/2022. Lowell George, prod.; Jason Jones, reissue prod.

This eight-CD box-set reissue of Little Feat's classic live album includes the unedited concerts that made up the original two-LP album. It is superbly remastered and handsomely packaged with a jauntily informative booklet. The complete concerts demonstrate what a great band peak-era Little Feat was.

Kurt Gottschalk


Public Image Ltd.: First Issue
Virgin V2114 (LP). 1978. PiL, prod.; John Leckie, Bill Price, engs.

Post-punk is now more hashtag than genre, but when it blossomed, in the late '70s, angry and atonal, it was the revolution punk promised. Embracing aggression without banging out blues progressions, the post-punk guitar architects rarely get their due. Andy Gill (1956–2020, Gang of Four) has earned acclaim, but John McGeoch (1955–2004, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine) is lost to the footnotes. Keith Levene (1957–2022) quit the Clash early on, then fared better with Public Image Ltd., but was axed before "Fodderstompf" was swapped for MTV fodder. His guitar festers and howls on First Issue in dialogue with John Lydon's diatribes. They strike poses while finding their footing, concluding in the revealing, self-mocking chant, "We only wanted to be loved." Such adorable angry young men.


Joni Mitchell: Travelogue
Nonesuch 79817-2 (CD). 2002. Joni Mitchell, Larry Klein, prods.; Geoff Foster, Helik Hadar, engs.

Loath as I am to die for a best-of, this 2002 revisitation, intended as Joni Mitchell's final record, retools her songbook with orchestra and some of the finest jazz soloists. It spans her catalog in 22 tracks that make a single statement of her singular career. She may have lost a little upper register as she approached 60, but she more than made up for it in command and maturity. This lifelong travel diary attests to Joni Mitchell's stature as one of the 20th century's finest songwriters.

Larry Greenhill


The Modern Jazz Quartet: Pyramid
John Lewis, piano; Milt Jackson, vibes; Percy Heath, bass; Connie Kay, drums.
Atlantic 1325 (LP). 1960 (Mono, original version). Nesuhi Ertegun, prod.; Tom Dowd, Earle Browne, Johnny Cue, engs.

I've owned this mono LP of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) since college, and I always find it new, sophisticated, refreshing, and involving. Milt Jackson's vibes lead the group, and Percy Heath's bass gives each tune a focused drive. The MJQ's version of "How High the Moon" shows off Jackson's virtuosity on vibes, with Heath bowing his bass line to an ultracool effect. The title track, "Pyramid," inspired by Mahalia Jackson's gospels, progresses in tempo from slow to fast to slow, with Lewis and Jackson alternately soloing and blending. Mono or not, Pyramid continues to be my favorite jazz album.


Bobby Hutcherson: The Kicker
Joe Henderson, tenor saxophone; Bobby Hutcherson, vibes; Grant Green, guitar; Duke Pearson, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Al Harewood, drums.
Blue Note 21437 (LP). 1999. Alfred Lion, prod.; Rudy van Gelder, eng.

Just as I relished Milt Jackson's vibes in Pyramid, I reveled in Bobby Hutcherson's vibes in this superbly recorded LP, which I bought after reading Fred Kaplan's December 2020 review in Stereophile. Like Kaplan, I loved the airy and dynamic sound of the vinyl version and was swept away by the musicians' interplay. Hutcherson's vibes are quick, clearly defined, without excessive reverb. "Mirrors," the opening track, starts with slow, lyrical vibes, which reminded me of Milt Jackson's style, and is followed by Henderson's breathtaking tenor sax. This is inspired jamming at its best.

Alex Halberstadt


Mel Tormé: It's A Blue World
Studio orchestra, Al Pellegrini, cond.; Mel Tormé, vocal; André Previn, Marty Paich, Russell Garcia, Alexander Courage, Al Pellegrini, arrs.; Hal Valentin, eng.
Bethlehem Records 20-30152 (Qobuz). 1955.

Who would have guessed that God might place an unearthly set of vocal cords in the throat of a pudgy, yellow-haired Jewish kid from Chicago? Well she did, and the best place to hear them is on this session from 1955, Tormé's first for Bethlehem Records. Someone with such an extravagant gift could have succumbed to showy banality (see Johnny Mathis), but Tormé searched out great songs and venerated Fred Astaire above all other vocalists for his impeccable phrasing and taste. And so, the singer who hung an accent aigu over his made-up surname and possessed an instrument that critic Will Friedwald called "the most beautiful voice a man is allowed to have" deployed it with restraint and what the counseling industry calls emotional intelligence. Tormé's versions of "Isn't It Romantic," "Till the Clouds Roll By" (with lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse!), and "All This and Heaven Too" aren't simply lovely—they are definitive.


The Vaselines: Enter The Vaselines
Sub Pop Records SPCD 810 (Qobuz). 2009. The Vaselines, Stephen Pastel, Jamie Watson, prods.; Streator Johnson, Gordon Rintoul, Ian Beveridge, Peter Haigh, engs.

Two songwriters from Glasgow, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, formed the Vaselines in 1986 and left a grateful world two singles and an album before disbanding three years later. They made the most of their moment: "Molly's Lips," "Rory Rides Me Raw," and "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" happen to be some of the most fun, singable, and wonderfully lewd songs in the entire punk canon. The Vaselines weren't the first to deconstruct music to its basics, but no one had made a three-chord rock song sound so overtly sexual and funny. The tastefully titled Enter the Vaselines collects the glorious early songs, demos, live tracks, and possibly the most inspired cover ever, of Divine's scintillating 1988 Hi-NRG gem, which goes like this: You think you're a man, but you're only a boy/You think you're a man, you are only a toy/You think you're a man, but you just couldn't see/You weren't man enough to satisfy me. Timeless!

ChrisS's picture

Say no more.

Jazzlistener's picture

Star Wars fan, my vote would have been for R2D2 - Records to Dance To. :)

cognoscente's picture

Crossover by Dua Saleh *

Greenzone 108 by Greentea Peng *

Forbidden Feelingz by Nia Archives *

Air by Sault *

A Light For Attraction Attention by The Smile *

Push the Sky Away by Nick Cave & Bad Seeds ***

The Specials by The Specials **

Shiva Feshareki: Turning World by Shiva Feshareki *

Itemporal by Sarah Davachi/Ariel Kalma ***

Bloom by Areni Agbabian ***

Combination of recent releases (*), rediscoveries (**) and delayed discoveries (***)

Lars Bo's picture

Thanks, Kalman - the Matangi Outcast recordings are really something.

Another recommendation of the Ukrainian Silvestrov: His "Silent Songs" w. Yakovenko/Scheps, on ECM (cd only). It must have been less than a spotless reel-to-reel used in 1986 in Moscow, but humanity and emotions are grippingly authentic.

volvic's picture

Kudos to Ms. Johnson for mentioning the extraordinary Pérotin recording from the Hilliard Ensemble. It is a mesmerizing performance that doesn't’ get the due or mention it deserves. Well done!!!

Some great recommendations from others here as well, question! Do I need another Beethoven series and a period performance of Mahler’s 4th?

Kal Rubinson's picture

Some great recommendations from others here as well, question! Do I need another Beethoven series.....

I own multiple sets of the Beethoven symphonies as well as many individual symphonies but I nominated the Savall Beethoven set (Syms 1-6) because I believe you do.

Poor Audiophile's picture

for me!

volvic's picture

Will let my fingers do the clicking and add it to the pile.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Considering the cost and despite my enthusiasm, I still recommend that you sample it on-line before making such an investment.

volvic's picture

I always do, but everyone is quite enthusiastic about these recordings, so just might take the plunge. Then again, everyone was enthusiastic over Hogwood's Beethoven cycle which doesn't really work after the 4th, but this could be different. The problem for me these days is lack of space in the ever shrinking Manhattan apartment.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

That's what I began to do after two Gramophone reviewers chose Savall's Beethoven 6-9 as their favorite recording of the year.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I was disappointed with the 6-9 as a set.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Hi Kal,

I haven't had time to listen to more than a few bits. Far more on my plate than anyone of normal appetite should dare attempt to consume in one sitting. It's on the list... the very long list. Until then, I greatly appreciate learning your opinion.


volvic's picture

Will start with the 6-9 set.

Kal Rubinson's picture

FWIW, 1-5 were recorded as the culmination of a deep immersion (described in the booklet) into the scores and the context in 2019, prior to the Pandemic. It was released in 2020. The 6-9 set was recorded in 2020 during the Pandemic which deeply intruded itself into the process and delayed its release until 2022. It is no wonder that the results are not as good as the earlier ones made in better times and without Pandemic constraints.

You can have my 6-9 set if you want it. It's good, such as it is, but not outstanding and not an urgent recommendation. My R2L4 recommendation was for only the 1-5 set.

volvic's picture

Just read about the recording timeline this morning and the obstacles the pandemic threw at the whole recording process. A shame. I will listen to it but not keep it; I will purchase my copy if I like it. Thanks for offering.

volvic's picture

Hello JVS, Happy New Year! I don't stream, for many reasons, so that option is out for me.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Hmmmm. Manhattan apartment, eh? Mebbe just borrow mine to decide. ;-)

volvic's picture

Many thanks for offering; too kind. I suspect we're not that far from each other; I'm in the UES. I will take the plunge and purchase. Just listened to his 9th, a live performance and was deeply impressed. I will be purchasing. Will revert when I listen to them.

Kal Rubinson's picture

ok's picture doesn't mean that much to us grownups anymore.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Then, why are you here?

ok's picture

it still means a lot :)

Kal Rubinson's picture

Hmm. OK.