Category: Music reviews

Crossing that Line to Freedom: Heart on the Wall, African American Art Songs, by Louise Toppin and the Dvorak Symphony Orchestra; and the anthology Sence You Went Away

What poetry means is open to interpretation, but those lines suggest to me that memory possesses what the hand does not hold, and that there are different ways of gaining the world, a spiritual way beyond the material. That is also the realm of art, a form of beauty, craft, emotion, idea, memory, spirit, and thought.

Nature, Spirit, Love, and Protest: Wild Songs, classical soprano Polly Butler Cornelius’s performance of songs by Steve Heitzeg and Lori Laitman

On Polly Butler Cornelius’s album Wild Songs, the use by composer Lori Laitman of Emily Dickinson’s “Will there really be a morning?” becomes an expression of more than spiritual doubt, but a recognition of the possibility of real world cataclysm.  The high long notes can be beautiful but nearly blur the sense of the words.

A Musician’s Musician and a Pervert’s Pervert: Here’s Little Richard

A man who wears glass suits would not throw stones, but he sure can throw light and plenty of shade. Little Richard has been a legend for decades; and there is no one who speaks or sings like him. Little Richard had to be a force of nature: he had a lot of terrain to conquer and there was no established social infrastructure to help him; and he had only his charisma, energy, talent, and will.

After Sade’s Soldier of Love comes Lianne La Havas’s Is Your Love Big Enough?

Lianne La Havas, with her song collection Is Your Love Big Enough?, presents a sensibility that is feminine, thoughtful, jazzily soulful, independent and individual. La Havas, a singer and a guitarist, with the participation of multi-instrumentalist Matt Hales, creates a bohemian atmosphere in which the personally sincere and the cosmopolitan are both at home.

Once in a Lifetime (Twice?): Diana Ross Live in Central Park

Both nights of Diana Ross’s Central Park performances were impressive, but in different ways: the first night was triumphant from the beginning, a confirmation of a singular woman’s great success; and as the storm approached and spread, her response—calm, informative, soothing, sensuous, dancing—was a demonstration of her assurance and strength as a woman and performer.

A review of a wind has blown the rain away by Ellen Mandel and Todd Almond

Though I imagine it would be easy for Mandel to grandstand or write flashy piano, in every piece, the music is delicate and subservient to the words – it’s all about Cummings and enhancing, and drawing out the meaning of each piece such that they become fresh and new. Lovers of Cummings’ poetry won’t be disappointed with this CD, which is deeply engaged with the original poetry.

We Study Everything: Branford Marsalis Quartet, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes

Branford Marsalis Quartet’s music is charming, full of pleasing technique, light and playful, so much so that it can be difficult to distinguish between melody and rhythm. The pace is often quick, with bristling energy, and yet the music is quite pretty. The sound is intimate and the bass notes create something almost meditative; and with sound that light and piercing, it is easy to think that the root is freedom, or joy.

Infatuation, Intoxication, Regret: I Know What Love Isn’t by Jens Lekman

The album I Know What Love Isn’t is intelligent and intimate, mellow, and yet seems a serious encounter—probing, humorous—with a different culture and demanding relationships. It is a collection both arty and honest. “I think my dream is trying to tell me something,” Jens Lekman sings in “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots,” a guitar and voice song.