We feature a crop of new releases this week, beginning with a quartet of live recordings. First up, a Wes Montgomery track recorded live at a superb concert in 1965. The show was captured on reel-to-reel tape by French radio and television (ORTF) at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. I used to go to shows there during my school days in Paris. This recording showcases Montgomery before his switch to more commercial records from CTI. It’s a truly blowing record, with the jazz guitarist out front playing virtuosically with a great rhythm section—Harold Mabern on piano, Arthur Harper on bass, and Jimmy Lovelace on drums. Tenor sax player Johnny Griffin guests on several cuts. The video at bottom reveals the backstory behind the recording and the tour, and includes an interview with Mabern.
We turn next to a live track from Brazilian songstress Maria Bethânia, the younger sister of superstar Caetano Veloso. The album was recorded recently in Rio before an adoring crowd. She is a Brazilian treasure, and sadly doesn’t seem to tour here much. I can think of only one show she ever did in the U.S., years ago in New York City.
The third live album was recorded during Carnival in Cape Verde, featuring the late Cesária Évora. I love Cesária beyond belief and I’m glad her label Lusafrica issued this posthumous release. Lusafrica was the label to first put Cesária on the world’s map, before BMG entered the picture.
The quartet of live shows concludes with an amazing performance by Melody Gardot in Amsterdam. We hear from a two-cd set on Verve, which includes concerts in London, Paris, Utrecht, and other cities. Gardot is simply stupendous. Listen and be thrilled.
We turn next to the music of Claude Debussy performed by pianist Stephen Hough, in a new album from the UK label Hyperion. I love this piece from Debussy’s Images Book II, “Cloches à Travers les Feuilles” (Bells through the Leaves), which shows the influence of Balinese gamelan and whole-tone scales from other world-music traditions. Debussy was so far ahead of his time that his work still seems visionary a hundred years after his death.
Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson hasn’t released an album in years, and this new one on ECM was worth waiting for. Stenson is an alum of Charles Lloyd’s group and a jazz piano veteran. The new album is a welcome addition to his oeuvre, the latest of several ECM recordings he’s made over the past two decades.
We conclude with the deeply spiritual “Canto de Yemanja,” written long ago by guitar genius Baden Powell and poet Vinicius de Moraes. It’s been recorded many times by artist like Joyce, Virginia Rodrigues, Fabiano do Nascimento, and Mia Doi Todd. It’s performed here by Powell’s son, pianist Philippe Baden Powell, with arrangements and orchestrations by Mario Adnet. The track also features the gorgeous voice of Sao Paulo singer Mônica Salmaso, who has enthralled me with her beautiful voice. If you like her on this song, I highly recommend her album Voadeira (Woman in Flight).
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 2/23/18
- Wes Montgomery / “Four On Six” / In Paris / Resonance Records
- Maria Bethânia / “Floresta do Amazonas / Canto De Naña” / Dentro do Mar Tem Rio / Biscoito Fino
- Cesária Évora / “Cinturão Tem Mele” / Carnaval de Mindelo / RCA Records
- Melody Gardot / “Who Will Comfort Me” / Live In Europe / Verve
- Claude Debussy (Performed by Stephen Hough) / “Cloches A Travers Les Feuilles” / Debussy: Piano Music / Hyperion
- Bobo Stenson Trio / “Three Shades of a House” / Contra La Indecisión / ECM
- Mario Adnet & Philippe Baden Powell / “Canto de Yemanjá” / Afro Samba Jazz – The Music Of Baden Powell / Adventure Music
Banner photo of Cesária Évora in Paris in 2002 by Joe Wuerfel / courtesy of Lusafrica.
(Melody Gardot photo c/o tom beetz/wikipedia)