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A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 05, 2017
Sometimes things come together to create something special, and that’s definitely the case with this set by Danish bassist Jasper Høiby, perhaps better known as part of jazz power-trio Phronesis. In that set-up Høiby is part of the engine-room; here he’s given the chance to spread his wings rather more as performer and composer, not only showing just what a fine bassist he is but also writing tunes both intriguing and entirely catchy. Placing himself at the heart of a quintet comprising the trumpet of Laura Jurd and saxophonist Mark Lockheart, with fine work by Will Barry on piano and Corrie Dick wielding the sticks, Høiby never falls into the bass-player’s trap of putting himself out in front. This is an ensemble set, superbly recorded and with real impact and insight to underpin its fine musicianship.
Anton van Beek  |  Feb 20, 2017
Coming to this album with no knowledge of who or what Monkey House were, I played it through the first time with a nagging feeling that it sounded very familiar – or at least very like something familiar. Reading a little of the background cemented that feeling: this set led by Canadian singer/songwriter/producer Don Breithaupt has definite overtones of ‘the album Steely Dan never made’, from its brass arrangements and backing vocals to the sound of the guitars. This is hardly surprising as guitarists Elliott Randall and Drew Zingg are both part of the current Dan line-up, and trumpeter Michael Leonhart their current musical director. Recorded at Toronto’s Drive Shed studios, this set may not be as musically inventive as prime Dan, but the sound is big, lush and constantly interesting – and that’s not just for those nods and hints along the way.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 15, 2017
From the off, this set by bluegrass/New Grass mandolin player Sam Bush explodes with the kind of authenticity sorely missing from Cyndi Lauper’s recent ‘Detour’ into country. The tongue is firmly out of cheek here, and instead we get realism thanks to Bush’s rootsy approach to the heritage of American acoustic music. It’s a wonderfully upbeat and affirmative set, from the ever-so-slightly funky ‘Everything Is Possible’ to the defiant ‘Carcinoma Blues’. Meanwhile, the instrumental track ‘Greenbrier’ finds Bush and his band working out with almost quartz-locked precision and superb interplay, and the quieter ‘It’s Not What You Think’ is simply beautiful, and almost classical in its scoring and performance.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 10, 2017
Available in various formats, with sample tracks at www. 2l. no, this Mozart album has featured as a reference in more than one HFN hardware review, and was this year remastered in conjunction with Bob Stuart using MQA technology. It is certainly a fine production with stable balances, an intimate scale, realistic string timbres and just a hint of decay as movements end.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 05, 2017
This is a programme for the adventurous listener: three works for string quartet all written when the composers were young (respectively 23, 20 and 21). Adès’s seven-movement Arcadiana has a lot of sliding up the notes with simultaneous pizzicati and bowing. This independence of the string parts it has in common with the 10 Preludes by the Danish composer Nørgård. He is of an earlier generation (born 1932) and in fact Hans Abrahamsen was a pupil of his.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 01, 2017
This is the big-label debut by the young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, some of whose work may be familiar from recordings on the enterprising 2L label – for example, the ‘Ubi Caritas’ opening this set is also available as on his Piano Improvisations album [2L-082]. A former Classic FM album of the week (but let’s not hold that against it), this set sees Gjeilo’s work performed by some top-notch singers in the form of Tenebrae and Voces 8, with the strings of the title provided by the London Chamber Orchestra and the piano by Gjeilo himself. It’s a programme of unmistakably Nordic music, ranging from the sacred to the secular, and is treated to a wonderfully detailed and ethereal sound well-suited to the content, especially in the tracks evoking the landscape so familiar to the composer. Yes, perhaps it’s somewhat ‘classical-fusion’, but it’s definitely hugely enjoyable.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2017
Undiscovered for almost 50 years, this recording is as remarkable for its sound as its provenance. In fact it’s the only studio recording made by the short-lived trio of Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and was recorded just a few days after the well-known live set was captured at the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival. German jazz producer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer took the trio into his studio in Villingen, in the Black Forest (hence the subtitle, The Lost Session From The Black Forest), and this set was recorded between tour dates. However, contractual matters at the time stopped the set being released, and nothing happened until the tapes were re-discovered in 2013.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2017
The works in the Georgian pianist’s new programme – Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, Ravel’s La Valse and the three scenes from Petrushka which Stravinsky transcribed for Rubinstein – make huge technical demands. But Buniatishvili says she chose them more for their artistic associations: painting, dance and puppetry. Using a huge range of keyboard colours every possible wisp of characterisation is seized upon and personalised: these are polar opposites to the ‘straight’ Paul Lewis Pictures or Pollini Petrushka, and I found them utterly seductive. Each ‘Promenade’ in the Mussorgsky is treated differently, while the brilliant ‘Limoges Market’ or the hatching chicks are fresh and vibrant.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2017
As the promo video suggests, with two mics right under his nose it’s unsurprising that Pinchas Zukerman’s Lark Ascending remake at Cadogan Hall quite lacks the necessary sense of distance. (He was introduced to the work by Daniel Barenboim in 1973. ) However, Elgar himself must take the blame for acceding to recycling the sublime viola passage from In The South as ‘In Moonlight’ (here set for viola/orchestra)… Of the other three longer works, the Tallis Fantasia is really impressive, but Elgar’s Serenade For Strings and Introduction & Allegro prove somewhat ‘in yer face’ and a strain for the listener. Zukerman also directs the Chanson De Matin/Chanson De Nuit duo and Salut D’Amour and these light pieces come off well enough.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2017
This set by Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle started life as a series of gigs back in late 2014, and while it’s somewhat alarming to discover that the two performers are now heading for their bus-passes – both have hit the big six-oh – there’s an easygoing rapport between the two on this upbeat set of mainly jointly penned tracks. What’s even more remarkable is the way the two voices mesh together in flawless harmonies: they just fit like they’ve been doing this all of their professional lives. Even the cover versions here – among them Jagger and Richards’s ‘Ruby Tuesday’ – bring a fresh perspective to the songs, and while the recording isn’t by any means state-of-the-art or demo-quality, having a decidedly rough edge to it, it’s hard not to enjoy the ‘let’s just get together and share some songs’ freshness about it. It’s an album that’s difficult not to like.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2017
Yes, that Cyndi Lauper – just in case you’d dismissed her as a novelty act after ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, here she is, now in her 60s, goin’ country. Yee-haw, and all that, with not a sign of newer Americana genres here, but instead a series of cover versions of tracks going back to the 1950s, supported by a roster of guest artists. This could so easily have turned into a mawkish set of near-parodies, and as camp as Christmas, but Lauper’s heart is clearly in the right place, and the recording has all the signs of being a labour of love throughout, both musically and in the quality of the recording. It’s just on the right side of being a novelty record, and duets with Willie Nelson (‘Night Life’) and Vince Gill (‘You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly’) work well enough; but the Alison Krauss harmonies blow Lauper out of the saddle on Dolly’s ‘Hard Candy Christmas’.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2016
Reviewed as an SACD in HFN Jul ’16, these are string orchestra transcriptions recorded at The Barbican (as DSD128 – might we hear this in the future?) on 26th April 2015. The Schubert Quartet was partly adapted by Mahler, and completed here by Donald Mitchell and David Matthews, while Shostakovich’s powerful Eighth was expanded, with the composer’s approval, by Rudol Barshai in 1974. It contains quotations from earlier works, from Tchaikovsky and the ‘DSCH’ motif. Such is the sensitivity of the 24 LSO string players that much of the intimacy of the Schubert prevails, and while I prefer the Shostakovich in its original form (we reviewed it herewith the Quatuor Debussy) the performance here has an admirably stark impact and presence in this dry acoustic setting.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2016
Bit of a dream team exercise, this Blue Note label debut by saxophonist Richardson: quite apart from Pat Metheny on guitar, he’s also brought together Jason Moran on piano and keyboards, with a rhythm section of bassist Harish Raghavan and Nasheet Waits on drums. It’s quite an assembly of talent, and it shows in this richly recorded set that nevertheless lets the musicians’ solo contributions shine through, from Metheny’s soloing on ‘Creeper’ to his attack on ‘Untitled’, while the building complexity of ‘Slow’ is handled deftly yet maintaining the almost stately tempo of the piece. But then that’s the way of this album: beautifully stated melodies breaking down into lyrical, challenging variation and improvisation, with Richardson and Metheny trading blows underpinned by that oh-so-tight engine-room of drums and bass. Lovely stuff, and the sound shines, too.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2016
Don’t panic: this may be Euro-jazz – how else do you explain a lineup of trumpet, piano and accordians? – but it’s both persuasive and highly approachable, at least when you acclimatise to the slightly unfamiliar tonalities here. Yes, there are times when a conventional rhythm section wouldn’t go amiss, for example in the take on Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No 1, but it’s clear how well the three musicians work together on this, their second Mare Nostrum outing, recorded some seven years after the original. It’s an interesting mix of Northern and Southern European styles – trumpeter Fresu is from Sardinia, Galliano is French and pianist Lundgren Swedish – but the light and shade work well together, whether in the original tunes or the trio’s take on a Monteverdi madrigal, and is well served by a fine recording. AE Sound Quality: 85% Hi-Fi News Lab Report All the tracks here have a spurious tone at ~19.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2016
This set may take its title from Erik Satie’s decidedly strange cantata, based on a translation of Plato’s Dialogues, but it opens with the composer’s romantic early love-songs, ‘Trois Mélodies’, setting the ravishingly beautiful tone of the entire album. If you’ve ever wondered what reviewers mean by an ‘intimate’ recording, here’s your benchmark: the gorgeous voice of Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan sounds like it’s not just in the same room but quite possibly on the same sofa as the listener. It’s so close-up you can almost feel every breath to spine-tingling effect, while accompanist de Leeuw maintains a discreet distance, seemingly to avoid breaking the mood. In the title work – which is either written straightfaced or a fine piece of deadpan humour – Hannigan may take a step back from the close-up magic, but this is still a glorious recording.