THE THIRD MAN Stefano Bollani, Enrico Rava; ECM, recorded November 2006. The combination of Rava’s scissor-sharp trumpet and Bolani’s velvety piano work makes for designs cut from whole cloth. The opening tune “Estate” is a marvel of interwoven mood and method. Like a long-married couple, these two seem able to complete each others thoughts as well as argue without hard feelings. Soothes and stimulates. About the latter: On “Cumpari,” they makes as much noise — psychic noise — as two men can make. Then resolution.
KEN BENSHOOF “TRAVELING MUSIC,” “SON OF TWENTY SHADOWS,” AND ASTOR PIAZZOLLA “FIVE TANGO SENSATIONS,” “FOUR FOR TANGO,” Kronos Quartet; Nonesuch, released as Kronos Quartet: 25 Years, 1998. The programming of Benshoof’s rural, post-Americana, Grant Wood-influenced quartets with Piazolla’s urban, melancholy bandeon-and-strings romances comes together like mice in a closet. The warmth of movement, the slightly human twists in both sets of music, makes us smile. Is there such a thing as contemporary nostalgia?
REVERIE, Joe Henry; Anti-, recorded February-March 2011. Joe Henry’s latest is, as he writes, “a raucous and fractured and noisy affair…” like his previous recordings, but without the chaotic cacophony of background buzz. The music actually seems stripped down without the jazz personae and random overdubs. But it’s certainly gruff and hard-edged, reminding us of the way Tom Waits used to sound. It’s even more literate than past efforts ; there’s something of a short story-character sketch in the liner notes that doesn’t quite make sense of the trembling content and, well, any recording with a song titled “Odetta” (“Odetta, Odetta–/Please come and take me down/Nothing is now as it appears/And there is no law that speaks to that,/Just an ocean’s roar between my ears…”) has our attention. More on this after further listens.
RHYTHM OF THE SAINTS, Paul Simon; Columbia Legacy, originally released October 1990; reissue October, 2011. We always preferred this recording to Simon’s Graceland. It’s somehow darker, less frivolous. And it has some of our favorite musicians: Randy and Michael Brecker, Milton Nascimento, Hugh Masekela, Adrian Belew. The outtakes, highlighted by the unreleased “The Coast,” a tune with obvious failings among its brilliant moments, make the reissue worthwhile even to those who have a (well-worn) original.