By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
American soprano Dawn Upshaw is the sensitive goddess of the art song, and throughout the disc her customary radiance glows with the color of the moon. She moves from one musical style to another with serene confidence; as always, she knows how to make words as memorable as the music that complements them. Her partners include members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and brothers Sergio and Odair Assad, the Brazilian guitar duo. The latter pair gives unconventional but pleasing support to the selections by Purcell, Claudio Monteverdi, and the doleful John Dowland.
Turn out the lights, but leave White Moon playing as you drift off to sleep.
By Raymond Tuttle
Jack McDuff and Joey DeFrancesco
It's About Time
The jazz organ has enjoyed artistic and commercial good health during the present decade, but that hasn't always been the case. After its heyday in the Sixties, the schmaltzy and cumbrous keyboard lay moribund as a jazz instrument, usurped by the more portable and convenient synthesizer. That is, until the appearance in 1989 of whiz kid organist Joey DeFrancesco on the high-profile Columbia label. Soon enough, Hammond B-3 masters Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff were enjoying career revivals, and younger players such as Barbara Dennerlein, John Medeski, and Jeff Palmer joined DeFrancesco to dispel any lingering notions of the organ as anachronism.
It's About Time is the first studio meeting of McDuff and DeFrancesco, and it's a deliciously swinging affair. The two have performed enough times together in clubs to understand how to heighten the musical drama of the standards and McDuff originals they're partial to. It's DeFrancesco, some 45 years younger than his colleague, who has the sharper technical skills and deeper harmonic knowledge. Yet McDuff makes a virtue out of his simple approach to building solos, ultimately achieving a warmer, blues-soaked sound on his B-3 than does his more youthful associate. And it makes perfect sense that DeFrancesco's grooves should match those of McDuff on "Pork Chops & Pasta" and a half-dozen more numbers here, since Joey learned the art of groove making from his elder. (Two additional tracks, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and "Our Delight," are superfluous features for DeFrancesco and McDuff, respectively.) Amid all the organ washes and swirls on It's About Time, capable playing is delivered by the men in McDuff's quintet and DeFrancesco's trio, with the latter group's Paul Bollenback especially alert in his five guitar solos.
By Frank-John Hadley
Amrita . . . All These and the Japanese Soup Warriors
Just what is meant by "cultural piracy"? The term gets thrown around now and again -- when Paul Simon makes an album of African-derived music, for instance, or when David Byrne tries his hand at Latin rhythms. More recently the imperialist charge has been leveled at musicians who appropriate non-Western traditional music into Western club beats, a genre known variously as trance, world-dance, ethno-techno, or global ambient. But those truly offended by the globetrotting grab-bag sounds of groups such as Trans-Global Underground, Banco de Gaia, and the leaders of the stew school, London's Loop Guru, seem to have lost any connection to the basic joys of music. Would such doubters suggest a showing of passports to determine one's qualifications to perform or experience a culture's folk music?
Besides, as proven by Loop Guru's second album, Amrita, techno and non-Western styles are natural bedfellows. Both unfold along fluid, nonlinear paths that put them at odds with Western pop's infatuation with the structure of verse-chorus-verse. And sociologically speaking, the ecstatic release that comes on the dance floor has tons in common with the spiritual exorcism in mystic-folk music from Bali, Java, India, Iran, or Morocco A just some of the places represented on Amrita. In fact, the only impediment to ethno-techno's beautiful marriage is how well producers turn the music's cultural dislocation into postmodern enlightenment. The meticulous studio crafters and enthusiastic live performers of Loop Guru fare quite well as middlemen. They are not looters, nor are they musical teachers. They're doing this for the best reason of all: It sounds good.
By Roni Sarig
Ask Me What It Feels Like
As Veruca Salt is to the Breeders, so Fluffer is to Veruca Salt. And the music goes round and round and it comes out . . . nowhere. (121 W. 27th St., #401, New York, NY 10001)
By Michael Yockel