My playlist picks this week cover a range of new releases and enduring classics that I have returned to repeatedly for emotional and spiritual sustenance. We start with superstar pianist Lang Lang. If you’re a fan of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and love Glenn Gould’s iconic versions—either the 1955 or 1981 sessions—then I recommend checking out Lang Lang’s new set. I chose one of the most uncannily difficult variations here. Listening will make you wonder how his hands and fingers can move so quickly!
We hear from some of my favorite Brazilian artists. I love singer Zizi Possi’s treatment of Saint-Saën’s “The Swan” and Dori Caymmi’s “Dança do Tucano” (Toucan’s Dance). The title track from Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro’s new album City of Dreams follows.
I have enjoyed guitarist Ralph Towner’s crystalline sound and his ECM records for years. “The Lutemaker” comes from his 2001 solo album Anthem. We remember Ennio Morricone with the lovely “Visit to the Cinema” from Cinema Paradiso. Charlie Haden introduced me to it long ago when he brought in a copy to Morning Becomes Eclectic. Next, the classic “Poinciana” from iconic jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal’s 2019 album Ballades. It was Jamal’s first solo album in his long career, and the tracks were never meant for release. You can read more about the album in this post.
We also feature new albums from Chick Corea (who plays both jazz and classical selections), an all-star group of women jazz musicians named ARTEMIS (Renee Rosnes, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Melissa Aldana, and Anat Cohen form part of this supergroup), and French-Algerian bassist Michel Benita’s new ECM album Looking at Sounds. I simply loved Benita’s 2015 ECM release River Silver. On “Body Language,” Benita’s new keyboard player, Jozef Dumoulin on Fender Rhodes, creates an ethereal, floating musical foundation onto which both flugelhornist Matthieu Michel and drummer Philippe Garcia—members of the River Silver group—spin their musical web. Saxophonist Michael O’Neill’s lovely song “Cloudscape” reminds a bit of Stan Getz’s famous tenor sound and style.
Jeff Hamilton is a finesse drummer and he works with pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Jon Hamar on his latest album Catch Me if You Can. A trio is the perfect setting to appreciate Hamilton’s musical poetry. It’s an elegant, straight-ahead jazz trio album that you can listen to over and over (like I have). Saxophonist/educator Paul Carr covers John Coltrane’s song “Pursuance,” which originally formed the third part of Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme. We pair that with trumpeter Markus Rutz’s version of McCoy Tyner’s classic song “Passion Dance.”
We revisit other past loves, including a Federico García Lorca song from Spanish singer Ana Belén and another from the French musician known as St Germain, who really knows how to combine Malian modal groove with southern blues like few others. His 2015 eponymous album is great all the way through.
The playlist closes with Miles Davis and three different versions of Bronislau Kaper’s song “On Green Dolphin Street.” Taken from a soundtrack of a movie that’s been long forgotten, the song became famous because of all the great jazz versions of it. It was one of Davis’s favorite songs before he went electric, so we hear and compare three recordings—the original studio version from 1958 with the Kind of Blue sextet, the 1960 tour stop in Stockholm with the stupendous solo by John Coltrane, and the 1965 club version at Chicago’s Plugged Nickel, with the famous quintet. Davis’s sound and improvisations are pretty consistent. I find it more interesting to compare Coltrane’s tenor solos from 1958 and Stockholm, with the Plugged Nickel version (Wayne Shorter).
- Lang Lang / “Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Varatio 29 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. – Live” / Deutsche Grammophone
- Zizi Possi / “Pout-Pourri: Renascer / Meditação” / Caravelas
- Walter White / “Atlantic Bridge” / Stentor Records
- Dori Caymmi / “Dança do Tucano” / Music Taste
- Ralph Towner / “The Lutemaker” / ECM Records
- Chico Pinheiro / “City of Dreams” / Buriti
- Ennio Morricone / “Visit to the Cinema” / DRG Records
- Ahmad Jamal / “Poinciana” / Jazz Village
- Chick Corea / “Chopin: Prelude Op. 28 #4 – Live in Paris” / Concord Jazz
- ARTEMIS / “Frida” / Blue Note Records
- Michel Benita Quartet / “Body Language” / ECM Records
- The Michael O’Neill Quartet / “Cloudscape” / Jassmo Records
- Jeff Hamilton Trio / “Lapinha” / Capri Records
- Paul Carr / “Pursuance” / Paul Carr Music and Publishing
- Markus Rutz / “Passion Dance” / OA2 Records
- St Germain / “Real Blues” / Parlophone France
- Ana Belén / “Los Cuatro Muleros” / Ariola
- Miles Davis / "On Green Dolphin Street" / Columbia/Legacy
- Miles Davis & John Coltrane / “On Green Dolphin Street – Live from Konserthuset, Stockholm” / Columbia/Legacy
- Miles Davis / “On Green Dolphin Street – Live at the Plugged Nickel, Chicago, IL (2nd Set)” / Columbia/Legacy