Music and Recording Features

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Ken Micallef  |  Jan 07, 2020  |  9 comments
Of the celebrated triumvirate of John Scofield, Pat Metheny, and Bill Frisell—the most original and influential jazz guitarists of the past 50 years—none is more distinctive, or self-effacing, than Frisell, a true changeling of the guitar. Frisell is a jazz-based musician, but his music crisscrosses genres, and his guitar playing isn't bound to or limited by a specific technique. He's a master illusionist, able to alter a song's meaning far beyond its original intent with the aid of a Telecaster guitar, a modest effects chain, and, most importantly, his rich imagination.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 17, 2019  |  6 comments
Think of the greatest commercial LPs made during the past 72 years: the Solti-Culshaw recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Magda Tagliaferro's D'ombre et de lumiere, Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, John Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and a thousand or so others.
Phil Brett  |  Dec 06, 2019  |  12 comments
It's not just the gray hairs or the expanding waistline that suggest one is getting old: it's also when the albums you love so much, and so vividly remember hearing for the first time, have become a part of the rock heritage industry. So it is with London Calling by the Clash, which celebrates its 40th birthday in December 2019.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 26, 2019  |  4 comments
Following in the lineage of such iconic dub music masters as Osbourne "King Tubby" Ruddock and Lee "Scratch" Perry, producer Adrian Sherwood is the UK's contemporary pioneer of dub: the reverb-filled, beats-rattling, bass-thick music that erupted from "sound system" parties in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1960s.
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.

Richard Lehnert, Meg Seaker, Merridee Shaw  |  Sep 03, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1981  |  0 comments
Years before I moved to Santa Fe, where I eventually became Stereophile's copyeditor, assistant editor, and first music editor, I lived in Boston, Massachusetts. There, I'd spent a year as the in-house typesetter, copyeditor, and book-review editor of East West Journal, an eclectic monthly magazine devoted to nutrition, spirituality, cooking, gardening, conservation, and other subjects. Two years after I'd left EWJ, managing editor Meg Seaker called to ask if I wanted to interview Keith Jarrett for the magazine.
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.

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