by: Hobart Taylor
Yo Yo Ma/Silk Road Ensemble - Sing Me Home - (Sony Masterworks)
Ma is perhaps the world's most famous classical musician, and for that reason it is particularly noteworthy that he spends enormous amounts of his time, energy, and creativity in pursuit of a global music, a new classicism not bound by the borders of Europe or the time between the 17th and 20th centuries.
In this disc which is a companion piece to a documentary, The Music of Strangers, opening June 17th at the University Town Cinemas, Ma and his ensemble accompany a panoply of the world's most accomplished musicians from singers Gregory Porter, Rhiannon Giddens, and the vocal group Roomful of Teeth, to master instrumentalists like Bill Frisell, Shujaat Khan, and Tuomani Diabate with Balla Kouyate.
Celtic, Japanese traditional, West African, Balkan, Arabic,Indian, Bluegrass, Jazz, and 21st century neo-classicism are among the generic components comprising this effort, but the genres are purely vehicles for expressing a sense of familiarity, (and I mean this in the sense of belonging to a family),
that seems sincere, authentic, and intimate.
In joining with these various artists , Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble bring their own unique performance styles, but rather than overwhelm the material, they add a unifying vision that lets the music become more important than its origins. In the world section.
Luc Beausejour - Baroque Session on Piano - (Analekta)
This is a delightful collection of short sonatas with a couple of longer Bach pieces (Concerto in D minor, Toccata in E minor) thrown in. Several of the old faves are in the mix, Scarlatti, Rameau, Couperain, Purcell and Handel. Canadian Beausejour plays with fervor in the tradition of the performers who interpret the works in the classical style as opposed to trying to emulate the performance styles of the time of composition.
Rachel Barton Pine - Testament Complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin - - Allegro Media Group)
This two disc set serves as a brave and audacious document of Pine's continued growth as an artist.
Beautifully recorded, her performance is tremulous, notes infused with micro vibrations that are intense and passionate.
Ben Monder - Amorphae - (ECM)
I am guessing that the title of the CD relates to the purple tubular flowers abounding in tiny often fuzzy florets emerging from the plant in multiple stalks. While song titles like "Tendrils", "Zythum",(Egyptian precursor to beer), and "Hematophagy" (blood eating), seem as obscure as the the disc's title, the music itself is patently clear in its intense devotion to the passing moods, colors, and tones, that mirror nature's random transformations. The tunes scudder across the sky of our consciousness like dark clouds portending alternating storms and brilliant interstices of sunlight. Monder on electric guitars, Peter Rende synth, Andrew Cyrille and Paul Motian drums. Check out the re-invention of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning".
Avishai Cohen - Into The Silence - (ECM)
Avishai Cohen (the trumpeter, not to be confused with the bassist of the same name)has a meditative tone that can still cut through life's dissonance to provide the mind with quiet reflection tempered by passionate conviction, sort of like a loved one saying something crucial in a quiet voice. Joined here with the supremely melodic drummer Nasheet Waits, sublime pianist Yonathon Avishai, tenor player Bill McHenry and bassist Eric Revis, this mature and gorgeous work with heavy titles like "Life and Death", and "Quiescence" is profound without being ponderous.
Spike Wilner - Koan - (Positone)
Pianist Wilner is a melodist, which is to say his songs are hummable often blues based charmers or reflective ballads that lean into you and whisper, "I know how that feels...". The title tune is a mercurial rib tickler cruising along a 90 mph. There are fine covers Ellington, "Warm Valley", "Gypsy Without a Song" and Tadd Dameron, "Hot House".