With 2013 coming to a close, the “best of” music lists have been pouring in the past few months. Best albums, best cover songs, best tracks, best photos, best music appearances on television - the possibilities are endless and critics never seem to tire of list-making.
Here is a round-up from some of the more influential sources:
It can be challenging to find holiday music that isn't merely cheery, kitschy, or weirdly dark, leading many including myself to steer clear of it (while enjoying when certain renditions come up on the radio). Of course, it's hard to go wrong with jazz, but sometimes a person needs variety. This album just might fit the ticket.
Canadian musician and self-made record label owner Loreena McKennitt, best known for her 1997 song "The Mummer's Dance," has continued to produce great things, including this unique and wonderful collection of traditional old world holiday music, Midwinter Night's Dream (2008). It sometimes sounds as if it could be the original soundtrack to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, such as what you might imagine the elves of Mirkwood or the hobbits to play on rustic instruments during feasts.
What do you get when you put a pop-punk singer and a jazz singer in a studio? A totally stellar old-style country album, as it turns out. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and jazz singer Norah Jones have teamed up to thoroughly surprise the world. Definitely didn't see this coming.
In the late 50s, the Hardy-Boys-esque Everly Brothers debuted with alternately upbeat and somber country music that would influence later iterations of rock, though the duo's heyday would only last until the mid-late 60s. The world is about to rediscover their music through the star power of Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones on their brand new album, Foreverly, which consists of revamped and reclothed covers of the Everly Brothers.
Have you ever gone on a wild goose chase to get an album that's hard to find but you don't know why because it's so good? That's what I had to do to own Take it from the Top by the Bob James Trio. How I heard it in the first place was by browsing the shelves at my Denver Public Library branch.
One day, I had decided to discover new music by pulling CDs at random from our jazz shelves to check out, starting with the A's. The first major stand-out I came across was Take it from the Top (2004). In hindsight, I'm rather proud that we have it. Although the group is named after Bob James the pianist, James Genus (bass) and Billy Kilson (drums) make it what it is for me. It's difficult to surpass the crisp sound of a trio consisting of these three instruments.
It is one of the most cliché elitist replies when someone asks you if you like a band. Typically the speaker is trying to show off that they've listened to the band longer than newfound fans. In some instances, however, it's a genuine opinion void of hubris.
I confess that I've used the phrase for both reasons. Recently a friend asked me to go to see The National with him and I found myself saying this exact thing. I love their albums Alligator and Boxer, but found myself bored with their two latest. They weren't bad albums, just disappointing.
And when the heavens open I saw
I heard her say "Asucar turn this on."
Tito Puente's dressed in white
Playing timbales while the angels
Sing with Selena
Ay Mamma. Is you carnival shoes on.
--Wyclef Jean, "Selena"
As a depression-era child in New York's Spanish Harlem, Ernesto Antonio (Tito) Puente enjoyed banging on pots and pans so much that the neighbors convinced his parents to give him music lessons.
His Puerto Rican immigrant parents obliged, with lessons for piano, percussion, saxophone, vibraphone and timbales, and Tito became a professional musician at 13. Following an apprenticeship in the Machito Orchestra, he served in the Navy during World War II.
Fans of A Perfect Circle (the early-2000s-heyday band fronted by Maynard James Keenan of Tool) who haven't kept up with the former members may be interested to know that The Entrance Band is what famous girl bassist Paz Lenchantin has been up to ever since. It's good to see she's still rocking--perhaps like never before--joined by psychedelic indie frontman Guy Blakeslee and exceptional drummer Derek James.
The trio began to form around 2002-2003 and has remained fairly low key, blessing small venues in the Chicago, Baltimore, and L.A. areas with their extraordinary blend of talents at live shows. Thinking massively outside the box and excelling at it, these gigs have served as their rehearsals.
Marian McPartland once noted, "The Key of D is daffodil yellow, B major is maroon, and B flat is blue." The beloved jazz pianist and host of NPR's Piano Jazz for over 30 years has left the recording studio, after sharing a rainbow of musical journeys with fellow artists.
If you are new to jazz or want to pay tribute to McPartland and her musical family, visit NPR's tribute Twilight World. McPartland interviewed her guests with the language of music, co-creating unique musical experiences. She had a gift for drawing musicians out, and the intimacy of their conversations drew listeners in.
Don't know about you, but I've been anxiously awaiting the return of the Biennial of the Americas for 2 years! And now that it's here there is so much to do I barely know where to start & wonder if I'll have the energy to attend all the events!
First there are the nightly public symposia. I'm attending Tuesday and Wednesday nights - July 16, Unleashing Human Potential: Reinventing Communities, Business, and Education; July 17, Reinventing Communities and How We Live. But not sure I'm up for the other 2 nights of discussions - July 18, Reinventing Business As Usual; July 19, Reinventing Education for the Global Market, because by Thursday I'm ready to party!