We all have our instruments. There’re wind people who cotton to flutes, oboes, harmonicas and the like. There’re brassy folk who love the waa-waa of a trumpet or trombone. String lovers prefer guitars, violins and cellos. Ukulele and banjo lovers get their own categories.
I’ve always been drawn to the piano. It’s the Steinway of all instruments. Take a listen to these new (more or less) CDs in the collection and perhaps you, too, will fall in love with the piano.
The attractive people running through the sand on the cover of “The Art of Bach” are the inspiring duo Anderson + Roe. They are fresh and talented and really fun to watch (and hear).
Billy Jean may not be my lover, but this video is:
And finally, because the daffodils are coming up, check out “It Might as Well be Spring” (track 5) from “Last Dance” by Keith Jarrett and the late, great Charlie Haden.
Yes, it’s true, Pink Martini has teamed up with the Von Trapps (the great-grandchildren of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer). Alright, alright, those aren’t the real great-grandparents but rather the actors who portrayed Captain and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. The result of the collaboration is a new release called Dream a Little Dream. And it sure is dreamy!
The first track is a composition by August von Trapp called “Storm.” It’s a beautiful four-part harmony number which ebbs and flows, rises and swells as it invokes the power and awesomeness of a storm on the sea.
The remaining 14 tracks are songs from every continent with Pink Martini orchestrations providing the assured foundation to the Von Trapps tight vocal harmonization. There are several guest artists, but the most charming surely is Charmian Carr (the original Leisl in the The Sound of Music) who sings Edelweiss on the penultimate track.
I can’t tell you which teams are in Super Bowl XLVIII but I do know who will be performing our National Anthem. Give it up for the People’s Diva . . . Renée Fleming!
It’s about time a celebrated, trained soprano sings this most difficult of songs. Renée is a great choice because she’s such an accessible opera singer. Take a listen to this,
Even if you don’t speak Italian you can tell that aria is about luuuvvv.
Here’s Ms. Fleming singing a more familiar tune.
She has an extraordinary ability to project fantastic tone while also connecting with her audience. So many opera singers are outsized–big voices and big egos–but Renee seems to be in it for the human joy and exhilaration that music brings to us. All the while staying humble. And to that I say, Brava!
The weather outside is kinda frightful especially if you’re walking in this winter wonderland, but inside the decked halls of the Library, we’ve got a wide selection of holiday music sure to warm you up.
Why there’s the Robertson’s clan, bringing you Duck the Halls (CD 781.723 ROB). Why indeed.
And just when you think Susan Boyle can’t perform any more miracles she gives us Home for Christmas (CD 781.723 BOY). The first track is a duet with Elvis, the first ever posthumous recording the King has done of “O Come, All ye Faithful.”
More of a traditionalist?
And finally, what blog post would be complete without providing some holiday magic from the Piano Guys on YouTube?
Soooo much talk about the “Music Scene” these days.
“CDs are dead.” (Not yet!)
“The Internet has killed the music industry.” (Not killed, but rather changed the industry.)
“No one even listens to music anymore.” (That’s just patently false.) Of course we listen!
Which brings me to YouTube. YouTube is today’s turntable. Those who were teenagers at some point between 1950-1980 had 2 choices for recorded music–vinyl or radio. Sometimes simultaneously if the spirit moved us. But that was then and now it’s YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora–lots of choices.
The great thing about the expanded universe is that you can find more than you ever even knew existed. The bad thing is there’s a lot of dreck. The good thing is it’s instant gratification (almost) and usually free. The bad thing is you can’t watch YouTube and clean your room at the same time. The good thing is you can listen to a CD or an iPod and get your chores done.
So here’s my recommendation for getting your chores done: Check out these CDs,
then rest awhile with a screen and watch this YouTube sensation, Kurt Hugo Schneider.
The award-winning documentary “The Gatekeepers” is about Shin Bet, Israel’s spy agency. Given the current situation in Syria, I thought it might be informative. It is. It’s also thought-provoking and difficult. After witnessing or causing a lot of targeted, as well as innocent, bloodshed, the former heads of Shin Bet seem to arrive at the conclusion that talking to the enemy is the only way to move forward and end the carnage. But how do they convince the citizens or the government that negotiation is their best weapon?
In a part of the world where there is no trust among anyone on any side of any border how can we find solutions? Presently we (USA) are putting our trust in a country (Russia) that most of us have been conditioned to be quite wary of. But if the deal works, our willingness to trust may save thousands of lives.
With the grand theme of trust on my mind, I decided to stock the Listening Station (LS) with CDs by musicians committed to bridging gaps and forging new friendships, using music as a means of education and community building. (If you’re over 3 1/2 feet tall you may not be aware of the LS. It’s mounted on the end of the first unit of CD shelving on the main floor of the Library.)
This week, the LS top spot goes to Yo-Yo “Venture Culturist” Ma with his “When Strangers Meet” Silk Road Journeys CD. Ma started the Silk Road Project years ago as an innovative and collaborative approach to education through the arts. Track 10, “Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur” features musicians from India, Iran, and the United States.
In the middle spot is Thunder & Lightning, a collaborative effort by Sir Georg Solti. The World Orchestra for Peace (Solti’s brainchild) plays a Rossini selection on Track 1. Listening to this famous piece of music lends a certain sense of urgency to the cause.
And finally, in the remaining LS spot is IZ: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s 1993(!) Facing Future CD with his now famous mash-up of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” on Track 14. I had Israel on my mind and this album kind of makes sense to include with its title imploring us to face the future from an artist whose soothing vocals call on us to think about what we’re doing to each other and our environment.
Music can unify and inspire us and maybe even help us to put trust in our better nature. Take time to listen to these great musicians, and check out some of these other great works.
What’s the top-selling CD of all time? It’s Thriller, by Michael Jackson. It has sold 43.2 million copies, though some claim its sales top 65 million, depending on who is counting. (Some even claim it sold one hundred million copies.) The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including one for Album of the Year. Thriller has been included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Register (in 2007) of culturally significant recordings, and the Thriller video was included in the National Film Preservation Board’s National Film Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.”
Full of “record-hurtling hits” like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “P.Y.T.,” seven singles were released from the album, all of which reached Billboard Magazine’s Top 10. And when Jackson first moonwalked while singing “Billie Jean,” during a live TV broadcast on May 16, 1983, moonwalking became a national sensation. Jackson, the former child-star lead singer for the Jackson 5, was catapulted into the stratosphere of international super-stardom, and some would say into the celebrity life that led to his ultimate–and ugly–downfall.
Thriller 25 is the 25th-anniversary edition of the original album and was released on February 12, 2008. Along with the original material, the reissue contains remixes, new material, and a DVD. It has gone on to sell more than 15 million copies, worldwide.
The Thriller video–a 14-minute horror spoof–revolutionized music videos, and has been called the most “influential pop music video of all time.”
You can read all about this video in The Making of Thriller (781.64 KIR) by Douglas Kirkland. Be sure to check out the holographic cover!
Meanwhile, interest in Jackson’s music continues unabated: his Facebook page has 59 million followers, and Cirque du Soleil has a world touring show called “Michael Jackson: the Immortal.”
My own favorite cut from Thriller is “Human Nature,” and here it is as a music video.
Maybe it is the warmish breezes. Maybe it’s the filing of taxes, the ides of April. Suddenly I’m in the mood for jazz–specifically piano jazz.
I must have listened to Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert about 100 times, so I thought I’d put Jarrett’s Rio in the top spot of the Listening Station in the Library. This CD came out in 2011 and is a complete document of Jarrett’s show at the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. I’ve never been to Rio but I certainly get an impression of the place while listening to this evocative and imaginative CD. Beautiful. If you’re wandering by the Listening Station listen to track 5 and try not to think about Rio.
In the middle slot of the Listening Station I’ve chosen Voice by Hiromi. This 34-year-old, Japanese-born musician graduated from the Berklee School of Music and has already released nine CDs. That’s a lot. Per Allmusic.com, “Voice is best described as an electro-acoustic effort that is more post-bop than fusion but has its rock-influenced moments.” Right? Improvisational jazz can be difficult to define, which is part of its allure. Hiromi is praised for her eclectic taste and ability to incorporate different genres into her work. Listen to tracks 3 and 9 and you’ll get the idea.
Filling out the Listening Station we have Eric Reed and his CD Something Beautiful. Mr. Reed is in his early 40s and has been on the jazz scene since he was a teenager. A piano prodigy, he eschewed classical training for jazz. Can you blame him? Sorry Beethoven. He joined Wynton Marsalis’s band, replacing the great Marcus Roberts when he was only 19. He’s been inspired by Brubeck, Lewis, Blakey and a host of other geniuses. The CD is truly Something Beautiful. Tracks 1, 2 and 10 are favorites.
Just wanted to mention that we’ve received a copy of Rhonda Vincent’s latest CD, Rhonda Vincent: Sunday Mornin’ Singin’. Vincent is a bluegrass singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, whom the Wall Street Journal has proclaimed as “the new Queen of Bluegrass.” She is part of a bluegrass music resurgence, making bluegrass new for a younger generation, blending down-home sincerity with big-city style.
Rhonda began her music career at the age of five, playing drums with her family’s band, the Sally Mountain Show, and went on to learn the mandolin and fiddle, performing with the family band at bluegrass festivals. She has won a string of seven Female Vocalist of the Year Awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and has turned her group “The Rage” into a bluegrass institution.
As for Sunday Mornin’ Singin’, the New York Times notes that “it would have been easy for this impeccably gifted bluegrass singer to make her version of a gospel album in the studio, with a choice array of guests. Instead she recorded “Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ ” live at a historic Methodist church in Greentop, Mo., with no reinforcements outside of her working band, the Rage. Smart move: the album has a rough spark, against which Ms. Vincent’s composure shines all the more vividly.”