Recording of the Month

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Kurt Gottschalk  |  May 11, 2021  |  1 comments
Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble: NOW
International Anthem Recording Company IARC0039 (LP, download). 2021. Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble, prods.; Alex Inglizian, eng.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

In its sixth year, International Anthem seriously stepped up production. 2020 saw the Chicago label releasing a fast succession of rewarding albums, including a standout disc by Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and adventurous jazz by Rob Mazurek and the collective Irreversible Entanglements.

Dan Ouellette  |  Apr 22, 2021  |  4 comments
Daniel Lanois: Heavy Sun
eOne Music EMC-CD-28392 (CD). 2021. Daniel Lanois, Wayne Lorenz, prods.; Daniel Lanois, Wayne Lorenz, engs.; Noah Mintz, mastering.
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

Daniel Lanois may not be a household name as a solo artist, but over four decades he has gained great notoriety as a producer. After serendipitously catching Brian Eno's attention with his homespun recording projects in the late '70s, Quebec-born, Ontario-based Lanois became protégé and then partner to the ambient/pop tastemaker; together, they innovated sonic techniques and worked with such off-the-radar experimental jazz artists as soft-pedal pianist Harold Budd and fourth-world trumpeter Jon Hassell.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 18, 2021  |  5 comments
Žibuoklė Martinaitytė: Saudade
Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Giedrė Slekytė, cond.; Gabrielius Alekna, piano.
Ondine ODE1386 (24/96 download). 2021. Aleksandra Kerienė. Vilius Keras, prods.; Evelina Staniulytė, Aleksandra Kerienė, Vilius Keras, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

Might this recording be too "out there" for some? I spent hours mulling alternative recommendations, my favorites being accordionist Ksenija Sidorova's captivating Piazzolla Reflections and cellist Nicole Peña Comas and pianist Hugo Llanos Campos's beautiful new recording of Latin American music, El Canto del Cisne Negro. Either would have been accessible in more obvious ways than Saudade, a collection of four recent orchestral and chamber works by Lithuanian composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė.

Tom Fine  |  Feb 16, 2021  |  11 comments
Black Sabbath: Paranoid Super Deluxe
Rhino/Warner Records R1 556692 (5 LPs). 1970/2020. Rodger Bain, original prod.; Hugh Gilmour, reissue prod.; Barry Grint, LP mastering eng.
Performance *****
Sonics ***

The reviewer venturing to identify the birth bed of heavy metal music risks wrath. So be it.

The heavy metal genre has many roots. The idea of power chords and music centered on ominous, mythological, and vaguely threatening lyrics goes back centuries; consider the use of European church music in various eras to literally scare the hell out of believers. But heavy metal as we know it started 50 years ago with Black Sabbath's Paranoid.

Ken Micallef  |  Jan 15, 2021  |  0 comments
Newvelle Records Season Five
Pablo Ablanedo, Dave Douglas, Sullivan Fortner, Elan Mehler, OWL Trio, Rufus Reid, Carmen Staaf, Patrick Zimmierli
Newvelle Records NV025–30 (6 LP) 2020. Reviewed from 16/44.1 AIFF files. Elan Mehler, prod.; Marc Urselli, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ****½

If Newvelle Records is any indication, jazz's future looks bright. Since 2015, the New York label has produced four series of artist-curated, all-analog, subscription-only box sets of vinyl records with superb fidelity and top-tier musicians performing original material. Highlights included pianist (!) Jack DeJohnette's Return, guitarist Gilad Hekselman's Eyes of the World, bassist John Patitucci's Irmãos de Fé, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger's Preminger Plays Preminger, and guitarist Lionel Loueke's Close Your Eyes.

Fred Kaplan  |  Dec 15, 2020  |  3 comments
Ron Miles: Rainbow Sign
Ron Miles, cornet; Jason Moran, piano; Bill Frisell, electric guitar; Thomas Morgan, bass; Brian Blade, drums.
Blue Note (CD, 2LPs). Ron Miles, prod.; Colin Bricker, eng.
Performance *****
Sonics *****

If Ron Miles lived in New York instead of Denver, he would have become a jazz star long ago. With Rainbow Sign, his 12th album as a leader but his debut on a major label (at age 57), now's his time—or should be anyway.

Thomas Conrad  |  Nov 19, 2020  |  0 comments
Warren Wolf: Christmas Vibes
Warren Wolf, vibraphone, piano, Fender Rhodes, wind chimes, tambourine, Logic Pro X digital audio workstation; Jeff Reed, acoustic and electric bass; Carroll "CV" Dashiell III, drums; Christie Dashiell, Allison Bordlemay, Micah Smith, vocals.
Mack Avenue MAC1183 (CD, also available as download). 2020. Warren Wolf, prod.; Jeff Gruber, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Only 12 albums a year get to be Recordings of the Month in Stereophile, and only a few are jazz.

Typically, they are "big" records by major jazz artists.

Christmas Vibes has the major-artist part covered. Warren Wolf is one of the two most important vibraphonists to enter jazz in the new millennium. (The other is Joel Ross.) Wolf's album is not a masterwork, but it is a lovely, heartfelt offering that deserves its place in this magazine's December issue. In this year of years, in this holiday season observed in a pandemic, it arrives like a life-affirming antidote to darkness.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 13, 2020  |  5 comments
What's Next Vivaldi?
Antonio Vivaldi and others
Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin; Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini, cond. and flute.
Alpha 624 (Auditioned as 24/192 WAV). 2020. Jean-Daniel Noir, prod., edit., master.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

Forget almost everything you know about Vivaldi performance practice, authentic and otherwise, and shush all "shoulds." Banish from your mind any thoughts that all Vivaldi sounds the same. Prepare your ears to hear Vivaldi as you've never heard him before.

Sasha Matson  |  Sep 16, 2020  |  2 comments
Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways
Columbia C-250652 194397980991 (2LP; also available on CD and as 24/96 FLAC download) Chris Shaw, eng.; Greg Calbi, mastering.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

The stats alone are impressive—or, as we at Stereophile like to say, the measurements. 79-year-old Bob Dylan's 39th studio album is his first album of original material since 2012. Rough and Rowdy Ways times out at more than 70 minutes of music, due in part to the inclusion of Dylan's lengthiest studio song to date, "Murder Most Foul," which runs 16 minutes, 54 seconds. The LP version requires 2 discs. His tour was supposed to be Never Ending—but it did end, temporarily, because of COVID-19, just as Dylan and the band were set to play Japan.

Dan Ouellette  |  Aug 13, 2020  |  5 comments
Norah Jones: Pick Me Up Off the Floor
Blue Note B003179402 (CD). 2020. Also available on LP as Blue Note B003179801 and as high-rez download. Norah Jones, Jeff Tweedy, prods.; Patrick Dillett, Brandon Bost, Andy Taub, Matt Marinelli, Jake Owens, Tom Schick, engs.; Greg Calbi, Steve Fallone, mastering
Performance ****½
Sonics ****

It has been almost two decades since Norah Jones emerged shyly from obscurity into astonishing pop/jazz stardom, first with 2001's First Sessions EP, her Blue Note launchpad, then with 2002's Come Away With Me, which wowed the world. It has been surmised that Jones's self-described "mellow piano music" salved the pain of 9/11—whatever the reason, the album won five Grammy Awards and is reported to have sold some 27 million copies: more than Eric Clapton's Unplugged and slightly fewer than The Eminem Show.

Anne E. Johnson  |  Jul 17, 2020  |  4 comments
Alice Phoebe Lou: Live at Funkhaus Berlin
Alice Phoebe Lou, no catalog number. Auditioned as 24/44.1 FLAC stream, also available for download at Qobuz and streaming at 16/44.1 on Tidal. Vinyl can be purchased at merchbar.com. 2020. Alice Phoebe Lou, prod.; Paul Scheffler, Noah Georgeson, Zino Mikorey, engs.
Performance ****½
Sonics ***½

Nothing about Alice Phoebe Lou's musical career reflects industry norms. She maintains complete control over every aspect of her work, from creation to release. The result is always original and fascinating. Lou is at her best when she has an audience to connect with; this live performance is an ideal introduction to her powerful voice and courageous message.

Anne E. Johnson  |  Jun 18, 2020  |  10 comments
EOB (Ed O'Brien): Earth
Capitol (24/88.2 streaming). 2020. Flood and Catherine Marks, prods.; Alan Moulder, Stephen Marcussen, engs.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Calling himself EOB, songwriter/singer/guitarist Ed O'Brien has released his first solo album after 35 years with Radiohead. Over the decades, bandmates have branched out for high-profile projects—Jonny Greenwood writes film scores and Thom Yorke has several solo recordings—but O'Brien has stayed mostly in the background. Earth pushes him to the forefront, revealing a knack for collaborative creativity.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 13, 2020  |  24 comments
Eriks Ešenvalds: Translations
Portland State Chamber Choir, Ethan Sperry, cond.
Naxos 8.574124 (CD, auditioned as 24/96 WAV). 2020. Erick Lichte, prod.; John Atkinson, Doug Tourtelot, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

I'll admit to a conflict of interest in choosing as Recording of the Month a work co-engineered by our very own John Atkinson. We—I, who nominated the piece, and Editor Jim Austin, who ultimately chose the winner—have both worked with John for years. And I'd never deny it was moving to sit next to him during his recent visit to Port Townsend following the release party for this new album, Translations, watching him shed tears as we listened together to the heavenly voices of the Portland State Chamber Choir singing "In paradisum" (2012), which Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds dedicated to his grandmother, who died the morning of the premiere.

John Swenson  |  Apr 20, 2020  |  1 comments
Frank Zappa: The Hot Rats Sessions
Zappa Records/UMe ZR20032 (6 CDs). 1969–2019. Frank Zappa, prod.; Joe Travers, Craig Parker Adams, Jack Hunt, others, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

Frank Zappa's first real solo album (he conducted but did not play on Lumpy Gravy) is probably his greatest recording and perhaps his most uncharacteristic in that his singing voice is nowhere to be heard. The one vocal, "Willie the Pimp," is sung by Captain Beefheart, whose Zappa-produced pinnacle Trout Mask Replica was released the same year (1969).

Kurt Gottschalk  |  Mar 18, 2020  |  0 comments
Cooper, Cerrone, Pergolesi, et al: Afterimage
String Orchestra of Brooklyn, Argus Quartet, Melissa Hughes, Kate Maroney, Rachel Lee Priday
Furious Artisans facd6823 (CD). 2020. Emily Bookwalter, Eli Spindel, prods.; Ryan Streber, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

If an orchestra is going to wait more than a decade before releasing its first record, it had better go big when it finally does—which is what the String Orchestra of Brooklyn has done. Afterimage includes compositions by Paganini (1782–1840) and Pergolesi (1710–1736) alongside works by Rome Prize winner Christopher Cerrone (b. 1984) and the less well-known Jacob Cooper (b. 1980).

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