Thursday, October 1, 2009

Casual Listening - Barbra Streisand, Alice in Chains, Poncho Sanchez

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

October 2, 2009

! Barbra Steisand – Love is the Answer (easy listening)



As someone with almost no context for Barbara (Funny Girl, Yentl) and no prior experience of her singing offscreen, this album caught me completely off-guard. Her voice is unbelievably smooth and powerful – still one of the best in the business. Every vocal gesture is considered, and even with a voice that big, she still manages to come across as understated. The songs on this collection are available both in full orchestral and quartet settings. I love the full-on orchestra, but the quartet settings may help to convince those with a more jazz-attuned ear.

Listen to Barbra Streisand “Gentle Rain (orchestral)” or “Gentle Rain (quartet)”

! Tingsek – Restless Soul (R&B)

This is deep soul, reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s creative excursions of the 70’s. Electric piano, acoustic guitar, and layered vocals give a heavy romantic feel intensified with a harmonic sophistication rarely found in contemporary R&B. I’m conflicted as to whether to recommend this as a make-out album – the music’s good enough to be distracting.

Listen to Tingsek – “Coming Back to You

! Anthony Coleman – Freakish: Anthony Coleman Plays Jelly Roll Morton (jazz)

While Jelly Roll Morton’s claim to be the inventor of jazz is disputed, he was certainly the bridge between ragtime and the eternal sound of Louis Armstrong. Coleman’s renditions for solo piano are definitive modern recordings, showing tremendous emotional and technical range. His sureness of hand is absolute. Bravo.

Listen to Anthony Coleman “Fickle Fay Creep (Soap Suds)

* Kris Kristofferson: Closer to the Bone (country)

Like Johnny Cash’s American recordings, the magic in this recording is of a man confronting his own mortality, and the freedom it gives him to sing his heart out fearlessly. Much of this is solo guitar, voice, and an occasional harmonica.

Listen to Kris Kristofferson “Sister Sinead

Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue (rock)

I always imagined this band as Crosby, Stills, Hetfield, and Ulrich. Heavy, twisted rock that still manages to hook you with impeccable harmonies. As the title implies, this album isn’t nearly as dark as the band’s early work, and consequently has the potential to attract a new circle of fans.

Listen to Alice in Chains “Check My Brain

Poncho Sanchez – Psychedelic Blues (Latin)

Sanchez is one of the greatest living conga players. His latest is a textbook example of the musical hybrid that is contemporary Latin jazz, with an emphasis on the jazz. His “Canteloupe Island” is smokin’.

Listen to Poncho Sanchez “Canteloupe Island

The reviews above are, in my opinion, the best of the best. Still, it’s been an amazing week for music, possibly the heaviest week for new releases all year. Here’s a list of some of the rest that still caught my attention: Ramsey Lewis, Robert Earle Keen, Karen O. and the Kids (Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack), Dethklok, Patty Loveless, La Roux, Miranda Lambert, Samuel James, Selena Gomez, Bebel Gilberto, Fred Hammond, Zero 7, State Radio, and Fungus.

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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