Recording of the Month

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Robert Baird  |  Aug 03, 2011  |  0 comments
Bon Iver: Bon Iver
Jagjaguwar 52135 (CD). 2011. Justin Vernon, prod., eng.; Brian Joseph, eng.; Nate Vernon, Andy Immerman, asst. engs.; Greg Calbi, mastering. AAD. TT: 39:28
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Many, though certainly not all, musicians of most genres dream of composing, crafting, birthing a hit record—one they will forever be known for, and that will make them enough money that they'll never have to sleep on another hard floor or friend's stained couch as long as they live. Very few fulfill this dream, and those who do often don't know why or just how it happened.

Robert Levine  |  Jul 25, 2012  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2012  |  0 comments
Joplin: Treemonisha
Anita Johnson, soprano; AnnMarie Sandy, mezzo-soprano; Chauncey Packer, Robert Mack, tenors; Edward Pleasant, high baritone; Darren Stokes, Frank Ward Jr., basses; others; Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers, Rick Benjamin
New World 80720-2 (2 CDs). 2012. Judith Sherman, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 99:06
Performance ****
Sonics *****

The great ragtime composer Scott Joplin had grander ambitions than just the magnificent miniatures for piano he's famous for. When he died, in 1917, he had spent much of the previous 10 years polishing and campaigning for his full-length opera, Treemonisha, the piano-vocal score for which he had published in 1911. Joplin had studied classical composition and notation with a German scholar who had happened to settle in his hometown of Texarkana, Arkansas; lore has it that Julius Weiss gave young Joplin lessons in exchange for Mrs. Joplin's services as a laundress. Treemonisha is through-composed, with sophisticated harmonies clearly influenced by European teachings, but it also incorporates early-jazz beats, proto-blues sounds, odd syncopations, occasional Victorian-type ballads, African-American folk and pop music, and moments that recall field hollers and revival meetings—in short, all of the music of the Black experience in America is represented.

Robert Baird  |  Jul 23, 2013  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2013  |  4 comments
For all those who hold dear the notion that jazz has seen its best days—that, like classical music, it now lacks star power (no more Birds, Mileses, or Coltranes on the marquees), has already said much of what it had to say, and what's left is merely esoteric noodling or soulless bop-by-rote mopping up—there is Terence Blanchard. Once the archetypal sideman, this New Orleanian contemporary of Donald Harrison and Wynton Marsalis has become a successful leader. His poise, generous spirit, and workaholic lifestyle —not to mention his instantly recognizable trumpet tone—have quietly made him one of the leading figures in today's jazz mainstream.
Robert Baird  |  Jul 21, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2014  |  0 comments
The Black Keys: Turn Blue
Nonesuch 7559795555 (LP/CD/HDtracks download). 2014. Black Keys, Danger Mouse, prods.; Kennie Takahashi, eng.; Collin Dupuis, Geoff Neal, Bill Skibbe, asst. engs.; Tchad Blake, mix. TT: 45:09
Performance ****
Sonics ****

There was a time when calling the Black Keys "sexy" would have been thought perversely stunted, given that they were a two-man, raw-as-hell, blow-me-down, frat-rock grinder that jammed and pounded and convinced everyone that their version of Tony Joe White's groove was something new and revolutionary.

Robert Baird  |  Jul 21, 2015  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2015  |  1 comments
Sly and the Family Stone: Live at the Fillmore East, October 4th & 5th, 1968
Epic 88843023712 (4 CDs). 2015. Sly Stone, orig. prod.; Bob Irwin, reissue prod.; Vic Anesini, mastering. AAD? TT: 3:27:31
Performance *****
Sonics ****

The first thing you hear is not Sly Stone's keyboards or harmonica. Not Freddie Stone's guitar. Not Greg Errico's amazing drumming. Not Larry Graham's slapping bass. Not the voices of Rose Stone (also keys) and Cynthia Robinson (also trumpet). Not Jerry Martini's saxophone.

No. The first thing you hear is pure energy: the nuclear reaction of musical power that Sly and his Family Stone generated onstage on two October nights in 1968 at the Fillmore East. James Brown and his band(s) had nothing on these seven. This is prime Sly, when the band was still hungry, before the hits, before his life spun out of control, the music suffered, and the family split.

John Swenson  |  Jul 12, 2016  |  2 comments
Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow: Andando el Tiempo
ECM 2487 (CD). 2016. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Stefano Amerio, eng. DDD. TT: 47:19
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

Resistance is futile. From the moment she dropped out of high school in Oakland, California and headed for New York, nothing was going to stop Karen Borg, the daughter of a church organist, from evolving into one of the most influential jazz composers of her generation in her new identity as Carla Bley. While working as a hat-check girl at Birdland, she met the brilliant avant-garde pianist Paul Bley (1932–2016), married him in 1957, and kept the surname when, in 1964, they divorced. She began composing during that period, transforming the music she'd learned from her father into a jazz language rooted in the numinous depths of devotional music, but capable of the free expression absorbed from compatriots of her husband such as Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus.

Robert Levine  |  Jul 13, 2017  |  3 comments
Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata 2, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Six Moments Musicaux
Evelina Vorontsova, piano
STH Quality Classics CD1416092 (CD). 2017. Paul Steverink, Boudwijn Zwart, prods.; Jaco van Houselt, eng. DDD. TT: 74:42
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

This is Russian-Dutch pianist Evelina Vorontsova's second recording; the first was in 2002. Born in 1972, she took fourth prize in the Rachmaninoff Competition at 18, and second prize at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition two years later; in 2006, she won second prize in the International Piano and Orchestra Competition in Cantù, Italy (at which there was no first prize awarded). Judging from this CD and its very challenging program, she is a remarkable talent; one wonders why she is not more famous and signed to a major label.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Jul 12, 2018  |  41 comments
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1924 jazz-band version, orch. Grofé). 1 Piano Concerto in F. 2 "Summertime." 3 Gershwin-Wild: "Somebody Loves Me," "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You."4 Oscar Levant: "Blame It On My Youth." 5
Kirill Gerstein, piano; 1–5 Storm Large, vocal; 3 Gary Burton, vibraphone; 5 David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra1, 2
Myrios Classics MYR022 (CD, 24/192 FLAC). 2018. Kirill Gerstein, prod.; Stephan Cahen, prod.,1-5 eng.; 1, 2, 4, 5 Paul Hennerich, 1, 2, 4 Doug Decker, 3 engs. DDD. TT: 73:45
Performance *****
Sonics *** (CD), **** (24/192 FLAC)

I grew up with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I was the youngest in a family not particularly interested in music, and whose record collection consisted of pop music and three oddly assorted classical recordings, all on 78rpm discs: Enrico Caruso singing "Vesti la giubba," Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (on four 12" 78s), and the 1927 recording of Rhapsody in Blue with the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra and Gershwin at the keyboard.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 18, 2019  |  5 comments
Henry Brant: Ice Field
Cameron Carpenter, organ, San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edwin Outwater, Conds.
SFS Media SFS 0075 (24/48 WAV). 2019. Jack Vad, prod, and eng.; Roni Jules, Gus Pollek, Jonathan Stevens, Denise Woodward, supporting engs.; Jack Vad, Mark Willsher, John Loose, Atmos post-prod. DDD. TT: 24.31
Performance *****
Sonics *****

Even though Henry Brant's mind-boggling Ice Field for orchestra and organ won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2002—the year after its premiere—and years later was revisited by the San Francisco Symphony, for which it was commissioned, no recording format has succeeded at capturing its musical and spatial wonders. Until now.

Anne E. Johnson  |  Jul 17, 2020  |  4 comments
Alice Phoebe Lou: Live at Funkhaus Berlin
Alice Phoebe Lou, no catalog number. Auditioned as 24/44.1 FLAC stream, also available for download at Qobuz and streaming at 16/44.1 on Tidal. Vinyl can be purchased at merchbar.com. 2020. Alice Phoebe Lou, prod.; Paul Scheffler, Noah Georgeson, Zino Mikorey, engs.
Performance ****½
Sonics ***½

Nothing about Alice Phoebe Lou's musical career reflects industry norms. She maintains complete control over every aspect of her work, from creation to release. The result is always original and fascinating. Lou is at her best when she has an audience to connect with; this live performance is an ideal introduction to her powerful voice and courageous message.

James W. Keeler  |  Dec 31, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1962  |  8 comments
Britten: Noye's Fludde
Owen Brannigan, Sheila Rex, Trevor Anthony, Children's Chorus, and East Suffolk Children's Orchestra, Members of the English Chamber Orchestra, Norman Del Mar, conductor
London OS-25331 (LP). Colin Graham, prod. Recording date, 1961-07-03. Recording venue, Orford Church, Suffolk. TT: 48:00

This musical setting of the Chester miracle play about Noah, his ark, and the problems attendant thereof, if one of the most movingly beautiful recorded works I have ever heard. Its simplicity and sincerity are a stinging rebuke to those contemporary composers who have forgotten that music is basically an expression of emotion, without which its appeal can be only to the logic-oriented "mind" of a computing machine.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 19, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1963  |  3 comments
Music of Edgar Varèse, Vol.2
Arcana, Déserts, Offrandes, Chanson De Là-Haut (Song From High)
Dona Precht, soprano, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Robert Craft, conductor.
Columbia Masterworks MS-6362 (LP). John McClure, Thomas Frost, prods. TT: 24:45.

In electronic music, the sounds of musical instruments, natural noise-makers and electronic signal generators are recorded on tape, modified by running them at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds and manipulating their tonal content, and then combined in rhythmic and tonal patterns to create entirely new forms of music.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 02, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1964  |  0 comments
Trio Flauto Dolce: Music at the Court of King Henry VII
Jacobean Fantasias; Kleine Geistliche Konzerte (Schutz): Elizabethan Ayres; Sonata in e (Boismortier); Domine, Dominus Noster (Campra).
Martha Bixler (recorders), Eric Leber (recorders, harpsichord), Morris Newman (recorders, bassoon), Robert White (tenor).
Posthorn Recordings (footnote) TFD-1 (LP). Jerry Bruck, eng.

This is another disc that was submitted for review on the basis of our bitter complaints in the August 1964 issue about unmusical gimmickry in commercial recordings. Like the Phoenix disc reviewed elsewhere in this issue, this is a first release. It carries a technical note to the effect that it was made with "a minimum of technical fuss and electronic gadgetry," and like the Phoenix, it sounds that way.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1966  |  0 comments
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty Selections
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Stokowsky
London Phase-4 SPC 21008 (LP); Ampex LCL-75008 (open-reel tape). Tony D'Amato, Marty Wargo, prods.; Arthur Lilley, eng. TT: 46:50.

These are exciting, lilting, concert-style (as opposed to ballet-style) performances of the best-known excerpts from Tchaikovsky's second- and third-most-popular ballets. (First, of course, is the Nutcracker.) The recording is a surprise, after the excesses we've heard on earlier Phase-4 recordings.

J. Gordon Holt  |  May 08, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1970  |  6 comments
Pentangle: The Pentangle
Terry Cox (drums), Bert Jansch & John Renbourn (guitars), Jacqui McShee (vocals), Danny Thompson (double bass), Shel Talmy, prod.
Transatlantic TRA162 (English LP), Reprise RSLP63 15 (US LP). TT: 30:52.

The first "pop" recording we've ever reviewed in Stereophile may set a precedent for future reviews if there are others that sound like this. To this untutored ear, the material is rock out of raga, but it is beautifully done and, except for the larger-than-life singer, the sound is almost shockingly good. No filthy fuzzed-up guitars here, and the pickup of the double-bass simply has to be heard to be believed. Get it, at least as a demo.

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