Music and Recording Features

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Fred Kaplan  |  Oct 31, 2019  |  12 comments
There has never been a record producer like Manfred Eicher, founder and sole proprietor of ECM records, the German-based jazz (and sometimes classical) label that celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.

Eicher doesn't quite win the all-time prize for longevity. Edward Lewis started Decca (UK) in 1929 and owned it until 1980. David Sarnoff controlled RCA from 1919–1970. William Paley did the same at Columbia from 1938-1988. But unlike those other, financially heftier titans, who deferred to department heads and studio producers, Eicher has supervised every single one of ECM's albums—more than 1600 of them.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 30, 2019  |  0 comments
As the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven approaches, artists worldwide have begun issuing complete recordings of his oeuvre. At the top of a fast-growing list, three stand out: Andris Nelsons' recording of Beethoven's nine symphonies with the Wiener Philarmoniker (Decca), Igor Levit's issue of Beethoven's Complete Piano Sonatas (Sony), and the subject of this review, the Miró Quartet's 8-CD set of Beethoven's Complete String Quartets (Pentatone PTC5186827).
Ken Micallef  |  Oct 09, 2019  |  12 comments
Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea belongs to that elite cadre of pianists that includes Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Mccoy Tyner, pioneers who reshaped the jazz or- der starting in the early 1960s and continued to make strides into the present day.

The now-78-year-old Corea's attainments are many: composer of the standards "la fiesta," "Spain," "500 Miles High," "Matrix," and "Windows"; winner of 22 Grammy Awards (and 64 nods); founder of at least six colossal improvising units (Return to Forever I and II, Circle, the Three Quartets quartet, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, the Vigil Quintet); popularizer of early monophonic synthesizers, and recipient, in 2006, of an NEA Jazz Masters award.

Jon Iverson  |  Aug 27, 2019  |  6 comments
Vocalist Jon Anderson has been at the center of the fabled rock band Yes since its founding in 1968 and has collaborated with other notable artists including Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Jean-Luc Ponty, and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra. A tireless and prolific musician, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has also released more than a dozen solo albums.

Almost exactly 50 years after the July 1969 release of the first Yes album, Anderson visited my house for an afternoon of talk and listening to music. We listened to some old Yes tracks, some favorites from other artists, and several from his most recent album, 1000 Hands: Chapter One, which was 30 years in the making.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Aug 18, 2019  |  5 comments
I expect every lover of jazz and classical music will want to check out Decca’s new recording of jazz great Wynton Marsalis’ thoroughly engaging Violin Concerto and Fiddle Dance Suite.
Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 01, 2019  |  3 comments
Early in 2019, three jazz CDs appeared on a new record label. They were Jason Palmer's Rhyme and Reason, Johnathan Blake's Trion (both double CDs), and Eric Alexander's Leap of Faith. The label was Giant Step Arts.

Given that hundreds of jazz records—many of them good— are released every month, and that new jazz labels pop up all the time, is the release of three new albums really news?

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 26, 2019  |  0 comments
Czech composer Leoš Janáček was already in his 60s and married when, in 1917, he fell hopelessly in love with Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 38 years his junior. Although it wasn’t the first time that Janáček had fallen in love with an “unobtainable,” his passion for Kamila was all-consuming. During the final 11 years of his life, while he lived under the same roof with a wife whom he had informally divorced, he sent Stösslová almost 730 letters and was inspired by his love for her to compose many of his greatest works.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 12, 2019  |  12 comments
Thirty-two years after it was recorded, pianist Keith Jarrett’s live reading of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, has seen the light of day.
Ken Micallef  |  Jul 04, 2019  |  16 comments
Back when the vinyl resurgence was only a gleam in Michael Fremer's eye, most major record labels just couldn't be bothered with the LP. Fans of such masterpieces as Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, John Coltrane's Blue Train, and Charles Mingus's Blues & Roots had to make do with poor-quality vinyl reissues from small EU-based labels. Sure, there were—and continue to be—audiophile-quality reissues from such companies as Analogue Productions and Speakers Corner, but they often came at a premium price, and a great many classic jazz titles remained unavailable as new, high-quality LPs.
Sasha Matson  |  Jul 02, 2019  |  0 comments
American composer John Adams and I first met in the late 1970s, when I became one of his composition students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. My recollections from those days endure as near-cinematic images: John lugging his homemade synthesizer—he called it "the Studebaker"—down the hall prior to meeting me at his office; an early performance, at Mills College in Oakland, of Adams's Shaker Loops (footnote 1) for string septet; sitting with Adams during rehearsals for the 1981 premiere of his choral symphony Harmonium (footnote 2), with Edo De Waart and the San Francisco Symphony.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 01, 2019  |  6 comments
What’s the most frequently performed new opera in America at present? It’s Laura Kaminsky’s 2014 chamber opera, As One, whose libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed explores the coming out process of its protagonist, Hannah, as a transgender woman.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 31, 2019  |  10 comments
With Trachea, the latest superb recording from Norwegian label 2L [http://www.2l.no], label founder and recording engineer Morten Lindberg continues his commitment to contemporary music. Here, working with Schola Cantorum, Norway’s well-tuned 55-year old chamber choir, under the leadership of Tone Bianca Sparre Dahl, Lindberg scores big with six fascinating and musically accessible choral compositions, all but one of which were written in the last five years.
Ken Micallef  |  May 30, 2019  |  4 comments
Louisiana-born, 58-year-old saxophonist Branford Marsalis has achieved singular status in the worlds of both jazz and classical music. He cut his teeth playing hard-hitting hard bop with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, led The Tonight Show band, and kicked it with the Grateful Dead. He's toured and recorded with Sting, costarred in the Spike Lee film School Daze (1988), and made his classical debut with the New York Philharmonic performing Glazunov's Concerto for Alto Saxophone on Central Park's Great Lawn.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 06, 2019  |  0 comments
What better way to get into the proper frame of mind for Munich High End than by listening to native German speaker baritone Matthias Goerne’s new recording of Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 24—Kerner-Lieder Op. 35, with accompaniment by the distinguished piano soloist Leif Ove Andsnes? It’s available on CD (Harmonia Mundi HMM902353), as a download (up to 96/24), and streaming.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 03, 2019  |  2 comments
Ours is an era where bargain anthologies from the greatest artists, ensembles, and composers on record compete with new issues of unusual repertoire and transcriptions. One among many that have caught my mind and ear is Alex Klein and Philip Bush’s recording of Twentieth Century Oboe Sonatas.

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