On his album Eleven Short Stories, he has transformed his piano into the most flexible of instruments, augmenting it with odd implements and making it sing with new tones, telling vivid tales. The pianist, guitarist, and composer Erdem Helvacioglu, informed by classical, folk, and popular music, has wanted to bring together emotion and experiment.
On Cornelius Duffalo’s Journaling, short, repeating patterns begin to expand, double, triple, quadruple in Vijay Iyer’s “Playlist One (Resonance)” then become simple again; and there is plucking, wailing, then great fast rhythm. In his album notes, Duffalo says the Iyer piece “alludes to the tradition of virtuoso variations, complete with fiendishly difficult passages of harmonics, double stops and left-hand pizzicato, while also creating a unique contemporary sound world.”
Santi White, ambitious and determined, is a grown-up, a married woman, her husband being snowboarder-musician Trevor Andrew, but she relishes her youthful impulses, perceptible in her album The Master of My Make–Believe, which features an album jacket portrait by painter Kehinde Wiley and printed lyrics too small to read.
Drawing on an old troubadour style and also western folk music and the glamour of modern individuality, the singer songwriter is able to maintain an appeal that seems timeless. Afie Jurvanen, for Bahamas, writes about—what else?— existence and love on the album Barchords, called a “gorgeous, full-bodied recording” by the Los Angeles Times (February 7,2012).
Despite the depth in the lyrics, the pieces remain accessible to the listener – immediately enjoyable and catchy even, growing more so with each listen. The is a deft lightness in the work, from the soft reminiscence of Yeats’ “The Meditation of the Old Fisherman” to the light Broadway style trills on “Don’t Ask Why.”
Some of the songs (“Countdown” and “End of Time”) on the album have a brassy, multi-rhythmic quality that I identify with southern brass bands—is that part of (the Texan) Beyonce’s genuine taste?—but the sound could be something one of her producers scavenged from Scandinavian dance music or elsewhere, eager or desperate for a unique sound.
What separates human accomplishment and failure? In the slinky, seductive “No Danger,” using rhythm as a sign or symbol of desire, Rahsaan Patterson describes love as protection against the cruelty of indifference; but in the song that follows, with a theme of unhappiness, “Pitch Black,” a cross of rock and funk, featuring Patterson’s low voice, a fat slow beat, and guitar feedback, there are “pitch black panic attacks.”
On most of the songs on Be Good, Gregory Porter is joined by pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James, drummer Emanuel Harrold, Kamau Kenyatta on soprano saxophone, Keyon Harrold on trumpet, Yosuke Sato on alto saxophone, and Tivon Pennicott on tenor saxophone. In the mid-tempo, rousing “Mother’s Song,” praise of a mother’s love and lessons, the saxophone is a strong presence, and the percussion sure. The world’s ability to do damage, the sabotage and subterfuge love must face, is the subject of “Our Love,” which has the gospel touch of a bluesy piano.
Miss Lena Horne was one of the great entertainers of the twentieth century. I can recall hearing her name often when I was a boy in the American south, and after I saw her in the western film Death of a Gunfighter (1969), her face haunted me; and I recall as well the excitement she inspired in New York with the 1980s Broadway presentation The Lady and Her Music, the vinyl recording of which I loved (I still remember her saying that she did not want sweet, hard life to pass her by)—and I regret not seeing her at The Supper Club in Manhattan in the 1990s, but I had tickets to see Jeff Buckley around the same time and thought I should not be greedy—I was wrong.
The Belfast-born George Ivan Morrison grew up loving jazz and blues recordings; and as a boy Van Morrison learned how to play guitar, saxophone and harmonica, and he quit school to play music, even traveling in Europe, before returning to Belfast, where he started a music club. His band Them achieved some popularity in the mid-1960s, but he was soon performing alone, launching his solo career with “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967. Morrison created the experimental album Astral Weeks in 1968, and then Moondance in 1970.