May Day Medley

It’s the first of May and this week again, we check out some wonderful, recent releases that I’ve been wanting to share with all of you.

We begin with a collection of the late Cape Verdean Cesária Évora’s greatest hits and some lesser known gems as well. “Mãe Carinhosa” means ‘Mother Tenderness’ and is a title that was actually chosen posthumously by Cesária’s longtime producer, in reference to her mother, whom she’d often spoken about. Still revered as a national treasure by her island country, Césaria was immortalized earlier this year on the new 2,000 escudo bank notes.

After that, we have “It’s a Good Day,” an old classic that was first made famous by Doris Day back in the 1950s. This time, it’s been reprised by a young, Brooklyn-based French singer named Cyrille Aimée.

I am absolutely stunned by the talent of 12-year-old Balinese pianist, Joey Alexander. This youngster has pretty much blown the entire jazz world away with his creativity and chops. Listening to him play, you’d never guess that this wünderkind hasn’t had any formal training, aside from what he learned listening to his father’s record collection…but it’s true!

Next, we’ll tone things down a bit. First, it’s the beautiful, melancholic work of Russian classical composer, Alexander Scriabin (b. 1892–1915), performed by the legendary pianist, Vladimir Horowitz. Then Ukranian pianist, Valentina Lisitsa performs the soft, meditative “Glassworks: Opening” by the modernist composer, Philip Glass.

The Norwegian traditional folk kantele and singer, Sinikka Langeland follows with “Hare Rune” off her fourth album, The Half-Finished Heaven, for ECM Records. The kantele is the Finnish version of the dulcimer which is played by plucking rather than striking.

I thought we’d work in some jazz next, starting with popular bassist, Ben Wolfe, who’s got some lovely horn solos on the up-tempo “S.T.F.U.,” an acronym that stands for…well, I’ll let you Google it yourself. Vijay Iyer follows with his solo piano version of the late jazz composer/orchestrator Billy Strayhorn’s haunting “Blood Count,” a piece written in the last stage of his life.

We’ll then switch up the pace with Cuban pianist David Virelles’s amazing work, “The Highest One,” which fuses piano lyricism with Afro-Cuban batá beats. Batás are hourglass-shaped, double-headed drums used in Santeria devotional ceremonies, as well as in Afro-Cuban rumba.

I’ve chosen to round off our last set with Polish pianist, Marcin Wasilewski, playing an elegy to the late L.A. jazz piano prodigy, Austin Peralta, appropriately titled, “Austin.” And finally, Joey Calderazzo does a beautiful reading of of the ballad, “I Never Knew,” which includes a solo by Branford Marsalis, whom he has performed with for over a decade now.

Enjoy this little treasure trove of new releases.





Tom Schnabel