Listening Post: David Sylvian, Yes, Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz, the Claudia Quintet and Angela Hewitt’s Beethoven - The Buffalo News

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Listening Post: David Sylvian, Yes, Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz, the Claudia Quintet and Angela Hewitt’s Beethoven


David Sylvian, “Do You Know Me Now: Digital 45” (SamadhiSound). In mid-2013, David Sylvian was invited to participate in an installation by visual artist Phil Collins - no, not the drummer from Genesis - in which artists were asked to interpret anonymously recorded telephone conversations as raw materials for a composition. The conversations were generated from a phone booth located in a homeless shelter in Cologne, Germany, and the artists were invited to use these transcripts as they saw fit. Sylvian transferred one such conversation into the forlorn and gorgeous “Do You Know Me Now,” a chamber folk-like piece buoyed by ruminative acoustic guitar, Sylvian’s stirring low-tenor, and a wholly inspired string arrangement which twists and turns in unexpected directions throughout. It’s prime Sylvian, and provides strong contrast to his most recent work, which favored a wholly avant-garde approach that disparaged conventional song structures. The new song is backed by a reimagined mix of “Where’s Your Gravity?,” which first appeared on last year’s “A Victim of Stars” compilation. Typically singular work from the ever-inspiring Sylvian. Available through and ∆∆∆∆ (Jeff Miers)


Yes, The Studio Albums 1969-1987: 12-disc box (Rhino/Atlantic). It’s difficult to imagine just who this box of seminal Yes albums is targeted toward - one supposes that true fans already own all of these albums in their most recently remastered form, and there is no bonus material presented here that hasn’t already been made available elsewhere. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that “The Studio Albums” is being offered as an introductory package for Yes first-timers, a new generation of potential prog-rock loyalists. In that instance, the box is wholly indispensible, for Yes stands next to Led Zeppelin as the most innovative rock band of the ’70s, and the band’s greatest masterpieces - “The Yes Album,” “Fragile,” “Close to the Edge,” “Tales From Topographic Oceans,” “Relayer” and “Going For the One” - are all included here. No young person with an interest in the potentialities of rock music should be denied the opportunity to hear this most magical and far-reaching music. It’s for them, then. ∆∆∆∆ (J.M.)


Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz, Genevieve and Ferdinand: Live (Sunnyside). With The Coen Brothers’ magnificent “Inside Llewyn Davis” now in area theaters, here is something a little new in the world – music which marries folk music at its most minimalist and purist with jazz. It’s mostly just singer Kate McGarry – a singing and composing sister of Joni Mitchell – and her husband Keith Ganz on guitar. There’s some bossa novaish scat on it, but the purity of McGarry’s voice over Ganz’s sensitive guitar is very much a folk music sound, even if the resultant music is, by its nature, not at all folk music. “I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful musical partner for Kate than Keith Ganz” says the great jazz composer/arranger Maria Schneider in the notes. “Such lyricism and deeply meaningful intricacy is rare in the world of the guitar.” But not in the world of McGarry and Ganz. It’s the next evolutionary step in a kind of music that first seemed to come together seamlessly with another life and musical partnership, Tuck and Patti. Whatever you call this music, it’s gorgeous. ∆∆∆½ (Jeff Simon)


The Claudia Quintet, “September” (Cuneiform). So fresh and so bracing and so good is John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet (which contains no one named Claudia) that it can even make an abstract and powerful New Jazz disc with a group including the unpromising combination of accordion and vibraphone. Lest anyone think that the worst of Art Van Damme had turned into some sort of zombie from beyond stalking current avant-jazz, it’s important to note that accordionist Rod Wierenga is playing his instrument in an entirely new way in jazz and vibraphonist Matt Moran isn’t exactly doing things Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson or even Gary Burton would have done either. This is music by musicians eager to tell us it was recorded “on Earth Day and the birthdays of … Gyorgi Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis.” It’s drummer/composer Hollenbeck, though – one of the most creative musicians in current jazz – who gives this music its remarkable and entirely fresh flavors. Hollenbeck tells us in the notes that September is the month of retreats into composition for him. He tells here that for this disc “I wrote down as little as possible. I felt that the longer I was able to work out the piece without notes on a page, the easier it would be for the band to learn and memorize the music without having to rely on notation.” It’s a leap into “a world without music stands” and it’s altogether stunning at its best. ΩΩΩ½ (J.S.)


Catherine Russell, “Bring It Back” (Jazz Village). Woe betide anyone who can’t respond – at least a little – to Catherine Russell. She has the kind of primal jazz bloodlines that are all but unique: Daddy was Luis Russell, the great arranger for Louis Armstrong. So when she ventures into wondrous but little known corners of the Great American Songbook with arrangements that are devilishly witty neo-swing by a 10-piece band, you’re not hearing the amateur enthusiasms of, say, Diana Krall and Elvis Costello in their weekend musicales. You’re hearing music and manner that no one can doubt is in her blood and it’s full of wit and a vocal sound like no one else’s. Duke’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” actually sounds fraught with happiness. “Darktown Strutters Ball” turns into a honky-tonk party tune her father’s employer Louis might have enjoyed soloing on. On the rare “Strange As it Seems,” Fats Waller would be nothing but pleased. And “After The Lights Go Down Low” has a whole different cast sung by a woman than it did sung by Al Hibbler. As lovable as her discs almost always are. ∆∆∆ (J.S.)


Beethoven, Piano Sonata no. 11 in B-Flat Major, No. 18 in E-Flat Major and No. 28 in A. Major performed by pianist Angela Hewitt (Hyperion). Keeping track of all the Beethoven Sonata cycles from classical pianists may be difficult in some cases but certainly not the one being traversed by the great Beethoven pianist Angela Hewitt, one of the greatest ones in process. It isn’t just the performance level which is stratospherically high, it’s the notes by Hewitt herself that makes these Hewitt Beethoven Sonata performances so precious. She’s perverse enough to enjoy the “blank stare” she sometimes encounters playing the B-flat Sonata no. 11 Op. 22 and admits a “particular fondness” for the Piano Sonata in A-Major No. 28 Op. 101 because, for one reason, “it was dedicated to Beethoven’s favorite female pianist and pupil Dorothea von Ertmann whose playing, Johann Reichardt wrote, ‘combined such power allied to the most tender delicacy; there is a singing soul in each finger tip.’ ” Few greater ongoing ways exist to encounter Beethoven’s piano world than Hewitt’s series. ∆∆∆∆ (J.S.)

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