Cene’s Spring Break picks

While AU students are relaxing at the beach, we’re still hard at work at the Music Library. This week’s picks  have a little of everything from west coast jazz, to west Texas swing, to Japanese pop.

Anita O'Day Sings for Oscar

Anita O’Day – Sings for Oscar/Pick Yourself Up (CD 10012)

We recently picked up a couple Anita O’Day CDs (as well as the acclaimed documentary Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (Music Library DVD 331)) filling a glaring hole in our vocal jazz selection. This particular disc combines two fantastic 1957 releases. The tremendous session with Oscar Peterson’s group – featuring Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and John Poole on drums – is the highlight, but the other sessions are no small shakes; the larger ensembles feature such heavy hitters as Stan Getz, Bud Shank, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Guiffre, and Shelly Manne among others. Anita is at the very peak of her vocal powers, proving that she can hold her own with anyone in the pantheon of jazz singers.

Bob Wills - San Antonio Rose

Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys – San Antonio Rose (CD 3264)

Bear Family Records out of Germany isn’t known for doing things half way, and this massive 11-CD plus DVD box set is no exception. Containing everything Bob Wills recorded from 1932-1947, including alternate takes, air checks,  and studio chatter, and an exhaustively thorough 180+ page book, this set is not for the faint of heart. Those willing to wade in will be surprised by the remarkably consistent quality of Wills’ tunes and bands over this time period, leaving little doubt as to the appropriateness of his title “the King of Western Swing.” His bands were forward-thinking and modern, combining big band jazz with popular country and old time fiddle music, and redefining what a country dance band could be by introducing horns, reeds, and drums. The included DVD of Take Me Back to Oklahoma, however, can be safely missed.

Georges Auric - La Belle et La Bete

Georges Auric – La Belle et la Bête (Complete Film Score, 1946) (CD 10070 or streaming from Naxos Music Library)

Jean Cocteau‘s 1946 film version of the Beauty and the Beast story, besides providing Disney with the source material for their animated version, was notable for its lush, dreamy atmosphere, elaborate camera work, and deliberate, poetic pacing. George Auric‘s score is the perfect complement to the film’s rich visual style, and stands on its own as a wonderful example of 20th century impressionism.

The Great 1955 Shrine Concert

V/A – The Great 1955 Shrine Concert (CD 3250 or streaming from American Song)

One of the best live gospel recordings of the pre-multitrack era, this disc captures several golden-age groups at the peak of their powers, and in an electric atmosphere that is closer to their natural environment than any recording studio. The most recognizable group on the bill for gospel novices is the Soul Stirrers, still featuring a young Sam Cooke. In the live setting they really stretch out; two of the group’s three tracks clock in at about eight minutes. Dorothy Love Coates’ Gospel Harmonettes turn in a 19 minute medley of hits, while the Pilgrim Travelers and the Caravans both turn in impassioned performances.

Yellow Magic Orchestra - BGM

Yellow Magic Orchestra – BGM (CD 9351)

Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra spanned a variety of styles over the course of their career together, from pure pop and crossover electronic disco to experimental, semi-ambient electro-world beat (if such a genre actually exists). Their fourth album, BGM, occupies a place somewhere in between. The songs are less concerned with the dancefloor, and present a more mature, sometimes almost sleepy sound, while remaining catchy and memorable.  The tunes “Cue” and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “1000 Knives” are the standouts.


Intersession additions (say that five times fast)

Just because finals have wrapped up doesn’t mean we’re not still hard at work adding fresh materials for you. This week, we have one computer music classic, lots of jazz, funk, and soul, and a few DVDs to round it out.


Morton Subotnick – Silver Apples of the Moon / the Wild Bull (CD 10011)

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock – Thrust (CD 10010)

Ella Fitzgerald – First Lady of Song (CD 10014)

Bix Beiderbecke – The Art of Bix Beiderbecke (CD 10013)

Anita O’Day – Sings for Oscar (Peterson) / Pick Yourself Up (CD 10012)

Various – Hitsville USA: the Motown Singles Collection 1959 – 1971 (CD 10015)


Backbeat (MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 344)

The Buddy Holly Story (MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 346)

Wattstax – 30th Anniversary Special Edition (MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 347) *note – you should watch this one*

Cene’s streaming staff picks

This week, I’m highlighting picks from a couple of our streaming audio databases: Naxos Jazz and American Song.

Melvin Sparks :  Legends of Acid Jazz Melvin Sparks - Legends of Acid Jazz

Hard-edged soul jazz guitarist, Melvin Sparks, was a popular sideman in New York during the late-60s and 1970s, and released several funky records as a leader as well. This lengthy compilation pulls from the latter, and includes driving versions of Sly Stone’s “Thank You,” War’s “Spill the Wine,” the Coasters’ “Charlie Brown,” and several of his funkiest originals.


The Temptations - Psychedelic Soul

The Temptations : Psychedelic Soul

An expansive, 2-disc set covering the Norman Whitfield era (roughly 1968-1973) in Temps history. Despite the loss of lead singer, David Ruffin, the group and Whitfield were firing on all cylinders, creating some the most inventive soul music anywhere, and scoring hit after massive hit. “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Ball of Confusion,” “Runaway Child, Running Wild,” “Masterpiece,” “Psychedelic Shack,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” were all top-10 hits.

The Third Guitar - "Lovin' Lies" / "Sad Girl"

Third Guitar : “Lovin’ Lies b/w Sad Girl

A great find on American Song! Third Guitar’s two 1968 45s on Rojac (this one and “Baby Don’t Cry” b/w “Don’t Take Your Love From Me”) have long been coveted by soul collectors, and with good reason. “Lovin’ Lies” features intense vocals and rolling percussion. “Sad Girl” is a great ballad in the style of the Impressions.

The Sylistics - Greatest Hits

The Stylistics : Greatest Hits

The Stylistics were never better than on their ballads, and this set – despite being a slight, 10 track budget comp – nonetheless manages to include most of the best of these. “Break Up to Make Up,” “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New” are all among the best sweet soul tracks ever to come out of Philly.

Gato Barbieri - In Search of the MysteryGato Barbieri : In Search of the Mystery 

A hard left turn from my other four picks, this is Barbieri’s first session as a leader, coming hot on the heels of his time with Don Cherry’s group. It’s as forceful and (sometimes) grating as anything Albert Ayler or Pharoah Sanders was doing at the time, and an interesting peek at the beginnings of a career that would shortly turn towards innovative Latin-inspired works, and then a long glide towards commercial popularity.


Cene’s end-of-summer staff picks

As we begin the long slide from the bright optimism of summer towards the brutal gloom of winter, here are some CDs to extend that summer feeling as long as possible, or to bring on an early onset of winter. Pick your poison.

André Toussaint - Bahamian Ballads

André Toussaint – Bahamian Ballads (CD 3106 or streaming from Naxos Music Library)

Haitian singer and guitarist, André Toussaint, performed in the Bahamas for most of his career, singing for tourists in French, Haitian, English, Italian, and Spanish. This CD features his laid-back, light and breezy calypso, just perfect for laying around in the sun, not doing whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing. If there was a genre called ‘hammock music’ this disc would be a shining example.

Lightning Hopkins - Texas BluesLightning Hopkins – Texas Blues (CD 9756 of streaming from American Song)

Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers - Natural Boogie

Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers – Natural Boogie (CD 6820)

As far as I know, they have not yet outlawed cookouts after Labor Day, so there’s still time to break out the coals, throw on some weenies, grab an orange Crush and relax with some friends and some of the rawest, roughest, good-time blues ever set down on tape.

Southern Journey Vol. 9: Harp of a Thousand StringsSouthern Journey Vo. 9: Harp of a Thousand Strings – All Day Singing from the Sacred Harp (CD 1909)

There’s something about these shape note singing field recordings (made by Alan Lomax during a trip to the 1959 United Sacred Harp Musical Convention in Flyffe, Alabama) that always seems autumnal to me. It’s easy to imagine these Southern congregations gathered outside as the leaves turn, singing all dang day. And if you want to check out a shape note hymnal, we have those too.

Eduard Tubin - Requiem for Fallen SoldiersEduard Tubin – Requiem for Fallen Soldiers / Symphony No. 10 (CD 4869)

It doesn’t get much wintrier than this requiem by Eduard Tubin of icy Estonia. I think you’re actually required to put on a heavy, ankle-length winter coat before the disc will even play. This is the premiere recording of the piece, which was begun in 1950, and not completed until nineteen years later. You can hear from the first movement below that the instrumentation is spare – a choir accompanied only by an organ and tympani – the mood is funerary, and the effect is intense. Perfect for those frozen nights when your blinds are drawn, snow mutes any sounds of life outdoors, and you feel like you may be the only person left in the world.

Vocal Arts DC concert: Gidon Saks, bass-baritone, May 30th

Gidon SaksThis is it: the last Vocal Arts DC concert of the 2011-2012 season! It’s bass-baritone, Gidon Saks performing Beethoven, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, Ibert, and R.R. Bennett. See the website for full bio and program details. May 30th, 7:30pm, Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

As usual, students get a great deal ($15 tix) if they email Robert at robertsheehan@vocalartsdc.org. Music students get an even better deal ($0 tix). If you haven’t made it to one of these concerts yet, this is your last chance this season to take advantage of this marvelous deal.

Vocal Arts DC concert: Anna Caterina Antonacci, soprano/mezzo, April 11th

Anna Caterina AntonacciAnother great VADC concert is coming up on April 11th – as always at 7:30pm in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center. And again, cheap ($15) tickets are available for students by emailing Robert at robertsheehan@vocalartsdc.org. FREE tickets for music students are also available by the same means.

This time, it’s soprano/mezzo-soprano, Anna Caterina Antonacci doing a very full program of Fauré, Hahn, Tosti, Respighi, and Bachelet. See the website for a full bio and program details.