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Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases


Caetano Veloso, "Ce" (Nonesuch). Brazilian composer/guitarist/singer Caetano Veloso is an international star, though his relatively small number of English language recordings have kept him at cult-level status in this country. "Ce," his 53rd album, is not likely to change Veloso's American profile, but perhaps it should; few contemporary musicians who might loosely be classified as "pop artists" are making music of such intelligence, harmonic depth and soulfulness. Veloso gained his reputation nearly 40 years back as a progenitor of "tropicalismo," a bold sound that married traditional Brazilian influences to rock and experimental music paradigms. His incredible gift for keening melodies is apparent as ever throughout "Ce," particularly during the jazz-informed cadences of "Minhas Lagrimas," a cascading progression of Flamencolike guitar chords floating below a heart-rending falsetto vocal. That Veloso can follow such profound balladry with the Nirvanalike punk-pop of "Debusa Urbana" is a testament to his continued insistence on fusing cultural and musical traditions in surprising, inspired new ways. A real treat, this one, and one elevated consistently by the visceral electric guitar of Veloso collaborator Pedro Sa. Review: 3 1/2 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Miers)



Chopin and Brahms, Ballades performed by Cedric Tiberghien, piano (Harmonia Mundi France). At 30, Cedric Tiberghien is making a splash in Europe, performing everywhere from Bonn's Beethoven Festival to London's Wigmore Hall. This disc offers a gentle glimpse of his artistry. Particularly in the Chopin, some listeners might be frustrated by the liberties he takes with the tempo. But especially in the Brahms -- especially the serene, bell-like Op. 10, No. 2 -- he does a good job of bringing out this music's utter loveliness. Review: 3 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Mozart, "Don Giovanni," Ruggero Raimondi, Kiri Te Kanawa, the Chorus and Orchestra of the Theatre National de l'Opera, Paris, Lorin Maazel, conductor (Sony Classical, three discs). Ruggero Raimondi became one of the definitive Don Giovannis when he starred in that magnificently atmospheric early '80s film version of Mozart's opera. He brings a great commitment to the role, with a dangerous edge to his voice and a great acting ability that shines through even on a sound recording. In pop music terms, you could compare it to watching Michael Crawford step into the part of the Phantom. Raimondi's performance has that kind of uncompromising, dangerous edge. "Don Giovanni" is haunting all on its own. It was billed as a "joking drama," but it has so many moments that throw you off balance. The opening, chilling D minor chord, which could be seen as kicking off the Romantic era. The famous horror scene at the end. The duet "La ci darem la mano," a thrillingly accurate depiction of seduction that only Mozart could have written. This is a taut, gratifying performance, featuring Te Kanawa as the crazed Donna Elvira and Edda Moser as Donna Anna. Teresa Berganza adds coloratura grace in the cameo role of Zerlina. Review: 3 1/2 stars (M.K.G.)



Perfume: The Story of a Murderer composed by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Kumek and Reinhold Heil and performed by Berlin Philharmonic and chorus under Simon Rattle (EMI Classics). It isn't every new movie that comes along with a soundtrack CD boasting the mighty Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle. Nor is it every movie soundtrack that comes along with no less than three composers listed -- one of them, brilliant German director Tom Tykwer. (How does a professional menage a trois work when it comes to creating movie soundtracks? Lord knows.) The result is lush music full of romantic wonderment that adds mightily to the weirdly Gothic film while you're watching it but doesn't really re-create it when you're listening to it. Nor, for that matter, does it stand up completely on its own as a discrete, independent artistic soundworld. Interesting and evocative and magnificently performed, then, no more -- full of vocalises wafting in the air like the scents of virgins about to be lovingly slaughtered by the tale's horrifying main character, an artist/monster for our era. Review: 2 1/2 stars (Jeff Simon)



Grateful Dead, "Live at the Cow Palace, New Year's Eve 1976" (Rhino). Thirty years following one of the Grateful Dead's finest performances of the '70s, Rhino drops a three-disc, high-definition edition of the infamous (amongs Deadheads, at least) New Year's Eve '76 Cow Palace gig. Many longtime fans find this particular edition of the band -- the one that included keyboardist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna Godchaux in addition to Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann -- one of its greatest incarnations. Even by these folks' standards, "Cow Palace" must be considered a rare Dead show, for it covers several distinct periods in the band's development within one evening's performance. There's the early acid-blues and hippy-country stuff, ("Promised Land," "Bertha," "Mama Tried") the psychedelic jazz-folk-progressive rock period, (a particularly fiery "Eyes of the World," a killer "Help On the Way" and "Slipknot") and the Dead's pure, singular ability to play ballads that seem to fit neatly into no one category, among them "Looks Like Rain," "They Love Each Other" and "Morning Dew." It all adds up to a transcendent Dead show, a great gig for Garcia, and an ample showcase for the telepathic interplay of the Lesh-Weir-Kreutzmann-Hart rhythm section at its best. Review: 4 stars (J.M.)



Wayne Bergeron, "Plays Well with Others" (Concord). Bergeron was a stalwart lead in the trumpet section of Maynard Ferguson's big band. And shortly before his recent death, Ferguson himself -- the "famous high note trumpeter" onetime sideman Jaki Byard used to call him disdainfully -- performed a duet with trumpet player Bergeron on this disc on a tune called "Maynard and Waynard." Now that Ferguson is gone, Bergeron -- a very busy West Coast studio and session player -- seems to be applying for the role of the new Maynard Ferguson. Lots of high notes are hit, none immortally. Such music as this is nothing if not professional even it it's also -- except for a cut called "Requiems" -- also artless, soulless and pointless. The disc, then, is strictly for those who have been lying awake nights wondering where the next Maynard Ferguson might be coming from. Review: 2 stars (J.S.)

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