Spring Mix – A Musical Salad

Written by

Malian group Bamba Wassoulou Groove Photo © Jacob Crawford courtesy Lusafrica

This week, Rhythm Planet tosses up a musical salad mix of new and old, along with remembrances of artists who passed away recently due to Covid-19 or other illness. Let’s begin with a current KCRW fave, Little Dragon’s song “Hold On”. I have always liked vocalist Yukimi Nagano, going back to her days with the Swedish group Koop. The track comes from the group’s new album New Me, Same Us.

We remember the late Manu Dibango on this playlist with a track he recorded with the Cuban conjunto Cuarteto Patria, as well as a version of “Soul Makossa” featuring Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour, off of his brilliant, later album Wakafrika. The seemingly indomitable African titan died March 24 at the age of 86.

Brazilian singer Roberta Sá has become one of my favorites of late. The song is “Alô Fevereiro” (Hello February), a wonderful month in Brazil—with summer in full bloom and Carnival around the corner. After that, we hear “Mágica” from another Brazilian singer, Joyce, together with her husband, drummer Tutty Moreno.

I always like to showcase a few classical pieces. Classical music intimidates many people, but I think it is so approachable. You be the judge—this week we feature solo piano from Hélène Grimaud, who plays a Valentyn Silvestrov composition; plus, The Choir of King's College and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment perform the beautiful beginning movement of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, whose celestial notes always soothe my spirit. I also feature a song by French composer Henri Duparc, sung by the incomparable Kiri Te Kanawa. Lastly, we remember the Polish firebrand Krzysztof Penderecki with a piece that’s very different than those that he composed for Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, The Shining, and other terrifying soundtracks.

We also remember Ellis Marsalis, father and teacher of Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason—a patriarch of a wonderful New Orleans musical dynasty. Marsalis passed away in the last week, as did trumpet player Wallace Roney at just 59, both from Covid-19. 

New releases on the playlist come from trumpeter Volker Goetze, who knows how to mix jazz with African music; Bach vocalese from Israeli superstar Noa; jazz instrumentalist Sarah Elgeti; plus new African sides from Nduduzo Makhathini and Bamba Wassoulou Groove. Founded by percussionist Bamba Dembélé (who passed away in 2018), the Malian group Bamba Wassoulou Groove lives up to its name with its pulsing electric guitar rhythms.

The playlist closes with the great McCoy Tyner, who added so much beauty to Coltrane’s classic songs. We feature “The Promise” from Coltrane’s 1963 Birdland album, and a Gordon Jenkins ballad “Goodbye” from Tyner’s first album as a leader, Reaching Fourth (Tyner loved this interval and it was also part of his sonic genius). Tyner passed away in early March.

A final word now to remember Bill Withers, who passed away on March 30 at the age of 81 (from heart issues). He was one of the best singer-songwriters ever, and it’s impossible to think of a bad song by him. Withers wrote feel-good songs like “Lovely Day,” but he also penned trenchant songs of heartache and regret. This is “Hope She’ll be Happier”:

Rhythm Planet Playlist for April 7, 2020

  1. Little Dragon / “Hold On” / Ninja Tune
  2. Manu Dibango & Cuarteto Patria / “Rumba Makossa” / Celluloid
  3. Roberta Sá / “Alô Fevereiro” / MP,B / Som Livre
  4. Joyce & Tutty Moreno / “Mágica” / Far Out Recordings
  5. Hélène Grimaud / “Silvestrov: Bagatelles I-XIII - Bagatelle I” / Deutsche Grammophon
  6. Aaron Diehl / “Polaris” / Mack Avenue Records
  7. Wallace Roney / “Memoria E Fado” / Warner Jazz
  8. The Choir of King's College and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Requiem, Op. 9: I. Introit (1961 Version) / King’s College Cambridge
  9. Kiri Te Kanawa & Richard Amner / “Duparc: L’invitation au voyage” / Sony Music Odyssey
  10. Sinfonia Varsovia / “Penderecki: 3 Pieces in Baroque Style: No. 1 Aria” / DUX
  11. Manu Dibango & Youssou N’Dour / “Soul Makossa” / Wagram Music
  12. Nduduzo Makhathini / “Indawu” / Universal
  13. Bamba Wassoulou Groove / “Dankélé” / Lusafrica
  14. Sarah Elgeti Quartet with Friends / “Whereto?” / Gateway Music
  15. Ellis Marsalis / “The Breeze and I” / ELM Records
  16. Thinkin’ Big / “Chim Chim Cheree” / Thinkin’ Big
  17. Noa & Gil Dor / “Invention #1 – Hébrew” / Naive
  18. Volker Goetze Quintet / “African Child” /
  19. Laila Biali / “Take Me to the Alley” / Laila Biali
  20. John Coltrane / “The Promise – Live at Birdland Jazzclub, New York City” / Verve Reissues
  21. McCoy Tyner Trio / “Goodbye” / Verve Reissues