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CD LISTENING POST
BRIEF REVIEWS OF SELECT RELEASES

Rock

The Blue Van, "The Art Of Rolling" (TVT). If you're of the belief that rock music has been pretty much worthless since the early '70s, there's one option - simply pretend the intervening decades never took place. That's the recipe for Danish ravers the Blue Van, whose debut, "The Art of Rolling," bears all the markings of a late-'60s recording by the Kinks, the Who or the Pretty Things - white acts blending a love for the sneering electricity of Howlin' Wolf with an appreciation for old-school rhythm and blues. If you love Shel Talmy-produced records from this period, odds are greatly in favor of you digging the Blue Van's approach. It's raw, raucous, tuneful and full of "one beer from the edge" attitude. Review: 3 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Miers)

Jazz

Dizzy Gillespie, "The Music of John Birks Gillespie" (Verve). He has become the most weirdly overlooked of the incontestable jazz giants, and this anthology of Verve recordings from 1950 to 1963 helps explain why, as good as it is. Released in conjunction with Donald L. Maggin's biography of Dizzy from HarperCollins, it limits Dizzy to the music of Charlie Parker's co-revolutionary - the bebopper and trumpet player extraordinaire who brought Latin rhythms into jazz full time. What it doesn't give you, though, is the trumpet player who learned from younger trumpet master Miles Davis how to concentrate the expressivity of every note and did it his own way; nor does it give you the gray eminence who commissioned truly magnificent orchestral jazz from Lalo Schifrin and, especially, J.J. Johnson. It's a great disc of bebop Dizzy, but Dizzy's musical life was far too rich to be encompassed by just bebop. Review: 3 1/2 stars (Jeff Simon)

Funk

Soul Coughing, "New York, NY 16.08.99" (Warner Bros./Kufala). Kufala Recordings calls itself "the leader in authorized bootlegs," and this one from the late and much-lamented noir-funk outfit Soul Coughing is an absolute winner. One of the hippest bands to emerge from the '90s, Soul Coughing blended punk, folk, funk, hip-hop, slam-poetry and an ethic similar to the Beats throughout its sadly brief career. This live show finds the band at its absolute peak. By turns bizarre, ethereal, oblique and absolutely slammin', the Coughing boys shine throughout. For fans, manna from heaven. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.M.)

Film Music

Miklos Rosza, Three Choral Suites from "Ben-Hur", "Quo Vadis," and "King of Kings" performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra under Erich Kunzel (Telarc). You can barely watch the movies now (except for the chariot race, even "Ben-Hur," the best of them, seems ridiculous). But Miklos Rosza's music remains altogether wonderful - a whole new way of being reverential and religiously fervid assembled from better composers (Vaughan Williams, Lili Boulanger, Ernest Bloch) and massively enjoyable without ever quite going hopelessly over the line into hilarious kitsch. This is the world premiere recording of the Three Choral Suites from his film music that Rosza planned for the concert hall, and it makes a great case for their continuing concert hall life - not to mention CD indispensability. Review: 4 stars (J.S.)

Classical

Chopin, Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3, Leif Ove Andsnes, piano (Virgin). Andsnes is one of the most exquisite pianists around these days. His playing is passionate and dreamy but, at the same time, thoughtful and controlled - just the right touch, in other words, for Chopin, who was for all intents and purposes a classical composer. You don't get the over-the-top fireworks you'd get from a more boisterous pianist, but you get perfectly choreographed technique, a lovely measured legato tone and straightforward melodic lines to make you melt. Andsnes seems to be everywhere at the moment. I was a little relieved to find this disc was originally released in 1992. Review: 4 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)

William Byrd, Consort Songs, Emma Kirkby, soprano, with Fretwork (Harmonia Mundi France). William Byrd, like his mentor Thomas Tallis, was Catholic in Elizabethan England. Listening to these songs, though, it seems no wonder that he found such favor with the queen in spite of his religion. His melodies are so rich, so seductive, so smooth that it's hard to imagine anyone, especially a woman, not being moved by them. Byrd is known chiefly for his widely influential Latin church music. This disc, full of secular melodies, shows a different side of him. By turns skipping and syncopated and gentle and mournful, the songs speak brilliantly of their age, bringing the England of Elizabeth I to vivid life. (One song about Mary, Queen of Scots begins, "The noble, famous Queen/Who lost her head of late. . .") What's most amazing, though, is how easily the melodies can entrance us even now. Byrd had a real melodic gift, and it still shines; his work, unlike a lot of early music, is instantly captivating. Kirkby has a high, even, controlled voice and phrases the songs with uncomplicated beauty. The string sextet Fretwork accompanies her energetically, emphasizing the songs' shifting rhythms. Review: 4 stars (M.K.G.)