Rhythm Planet's Summer Mix

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Venezuelan singer Nella Photo © Nina Rodriguez

We begin this playlist by remembering Brazilian musical titan João Gilberto, who has passed away at 88. Gilberto changed the sound and direction of Brazilian music, beginning with his version of the Antonio Carlos Jobim song “Chega de Saudade” (“No More Blues”) in 1958. The deceptively simple-sounding song was written by a young Jobim, but what made Gilberto’s interpretation special was the way he played the guitar and the sound of his voice. It marked the beginning of bossa nova (“new beat” or “new style”). The superstar Brazilian singer Gal Costa said that, “it changed not only my life but the lives of everyone in my generation.” (Source: New York Times.) As a game changer, it reminds me of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” Charlie Parker’s Dial Records single “Ornithology,” or John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” They all changed the way music sounded and how it was heard as well. We listen to “Chega de Saudade” from 1958.

This month’s playlist also features lots of new releases in jazz, classical, and world music, plus a few reissues and evergreens. Highlights include a new live Paul Bley album, recorded in Lugano, Switzerland in 1999 but only just released by ECM a few weeks ago. It’s an interesting trio in that pianist Bley performs live with Paul Motian (Bill Evans’ drummer), and with Gary Peacock, longtime bassist for Keith Jarrett. We hear them play an Ornette Coleman standard, “When Will the Blues Leave (Live),” the title track of the new album. Paul Bley played in Los Angeles at the legendary Hillcrest Club in Koreatown in 1958 with Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins. Those early visionary concerts were the beginning of Coleman’s career, before everybody moved to New York.

We check out another interesting live album called Getz at the Gate, with Stan Getz at the Village Gate in New York. This album was recorded just three weeks after John Coltrane’s iconic Village Vanguard sessions of November 1961, and we hear Getz’s version of Coltrane “Impressions” from the Village Vanguard sessions. It feels almost as if Getz was replying to Coltrane. A very young Steve Kuhn, just out of Harvard University, turns in a great piano solo.  This was one of Getz’s last recordings before becoming famous for his Brazilian albums with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto.

Sometimes a rediscovery can be more fun and surprising than to listen to a new album. I dug up an old CD by vibraphonist Cal Tjader, Black Hawk Nights, featuring both studio and live tracks recorded at San Francisco’s famous club (hence the title). The star of the standard we hear, “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You – Live” is Cuban tenor saxophonist José “Chombo” Silva, one of the most swinging tenor players ever. His sound reminds you of Getz and Lester Young—smooth as silk, inventive, and fun.

The Ed Palermo Big Band surprised me with a cover of an Egberto Gismonti song called “Sanfona,” the name of a small accordion used in Northeastern Brazil. The original version comes from Gismonti’s obscure LP Em Familia. I recall a bunch of KCRW staffers dancing in the old performance studio to the Gismonti version during a taping by the late Joe Frank.

I’m happy to see that concert harpist Brandee Younger’s album Soul Awakening is out and available on Spotify and other platforms. The song “Save the Children” was written by Marvin Gaye and sung here by Niia. On other tracks she features music by Alice Coltrane, harpist Dorothy Ashby, and is joined on several by Alice’s son Ravi Coltrane.

With a new Ron Howard documentary and an accompanying best-of box set about the operatic titan, it would be hard not to feature something from one of two new Luciano Pavarotti albums. We hear the famous “Nessun dorma!” from Puccini’s Turandot. I once read an interview with Pavarotti and smiled all the way through the article. He is the quintessential Italian—truly larger than life.

A new Venezuelan singer named Nella just arrived on the scene. Her new album was produced by Javier Limón in Barcelona and features musicians from Colombia’s Monsieur Periné among others. Nella has a beautiful voice and the elegant Limón touch enhances it. Limón is known for his work with Diego El Cigala and Buika. The album title Voy means “On My Way,” and Nella is definitely off to a good start. She will perform in Los Angeles this coming October.

I was spellbound by the new album by Iran’s kamancheh (Persian spike fiddle) virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, a musician beloved all over the world. He has collaborated with many groups in wide-ranging musical contexts, including Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble. He plays both classical Persian and Kurdish music on this deep and soulful instrument. The new album called It’s Still Autumn features western musicians playing piano and harmonium, double bass, and trap drums. It showcases Kalhor’s versatility.

We follow with music from the group Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan (pictured above). I love Rajasthani gypsy music from the desert province of western India, with its strong rhythmic groove, joy, sadness, and a compelling sound.

Iconoclastic composer Harry Partch always thought completely out of the box. He lived in the California desert and used instruments of his own creation and making, such as cloud-chamber bowls, diamond marimba, and the quadrangularis reversum. As a conceptualist and original thinker, Partch compares to both John Cage and Captain Beefheart. KPFK’s John Schneider produced this new recording and also voiced the spoken text.

A remake of the movie Shaft is out, starring Samuel Jackson in Richard Roundtree’s role from the original 1971 film. The soundtrack has been reissued in a deluxe package, and we hear the famous theme with its unmistakable wah-wah pedal guitar introduction. An Arabic version comes next, performed by Algerian superstar Malik Adouane. I’ve played Adouane’s version at events and it fools people at first, before making a serious left turn into pure Arabic groove.

A beautiful vinyl reissue of a classic Stax compilation called Soul Explosion has just been released by Craft Recordings, the audiophile reissue wing of Concord Music Group. Stax personified the Memphis soul sound of the 60’s and 70’s, with more grit and groove than Motown and other labels of the day. This is a great album for a summer party. It includes classics by The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Booker T & the MG’s, Carla Thomas, and more. It was hard to pick one track to feature in the playlist, but I wound up choosing Eddie Floyd’s “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)”.

Finally, as always, we listen to some outstanding new jazz albums, this time by saxmen Sam Dillon and Bob Sheppard, veteran pianist George Cables, and composer Vince Mendoza, plus drummer Ralph Peterson’s ode to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 7/9/19

  1. João Gilberto / “Chega de Saudade” / Quando voce recordar / Tropical Dreams
  2. Sam Dillon / “I Hear a Rhapsody” / Out in the Open / Cellar Live
  3. Ralph Peterson and the Messenger Legacy / “A La Mode / Legacy Alive, Vol. 6 at the Side Door / Onyx Productions
  4. George Cables / “Speak No Evil” / I’m All Smiles / HighNote Records
  5. Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian / “When Will the Blues Leave (Live)” / When Will the Blues Leave / ECM Records
  6. Stan Getz Quartet / “Impressions – Live at the Village Gate, 1961” / Getz at the Gate / Verve Reissues
  7. Cal Tjader Sextet / “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You – Live” / Black Hawk Nights / Fantasy Records
  8. Bob Sheppard / “The Fine Line” / The Fine Line / Challenge Records
  9. Ed Palermo Big Band / “Sanfona” / A Lousy Day in Harlem / Ed Palermo Big Band
  10. Demarre & Anthony McGill / “Winged Creatures” / Winged Creatures / Cedille
  11. Brandee Younger / “Save the Children” featuring Niia / Soul Awakening / Brandee Younger
  12. Luciano Pavarotti / Puccini’s Turandot/Act 3: “Nessun dorma!”/ Pavarotti (Music from the Motion Picture) / Decca Music Group
  13. Eddie Palmieri / “Sun Sun Babaé” featuring Gilberto Santa Rosa / Mi Luz Mayor / Ropeadope
  14. Nella / “Los Nacidos” / Voy / Casa Limon America
  15. Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band / “Little Voice” / Homecoming / Sunnyside
  16. Kayhan Kalhor & Rembrandt Frerichs Trio / “Dawn I: Introduction” / It’s Still Autumn / Kepera Records
  17. Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan / “Sona ra button banna” / Times of Maharajas / ARC
  18. Harry Partch / “12 Intrusions: No. 1 Study on Olympus’ Pentatonic” / Sonata Dementia / Bridge Records
  19. Isaac Birituro & The Rail Abandon / “Yesu Yan Yan” / Kalba / Wah Wah 45s
  20. Isaac Hayes / “Theme from Shaft”/ Shaft (Deluxe Edition) / Stax
  21. Malik Adouane / “Shaft” / Oriental Fever and Funk Music (Spectacle) / Creative Source
  22. Eddie Floyd / “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)” / Soul Explosion / Craft Recordings