Listening Post: Sabina, Lisa Ferraro, Eleni Karaindrou, Daniil Trifonov, Jason Vieaux, Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, Daniel Smith - The Buffalo News

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Listening Post: Sabina, Lisa Ferraro, Eleni Karaindrou, Daniil Trifonov, Jason Vieaux, Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, Daniel Smith


Sabina, “Toujours” (Bar/None). Sabina Sciubba, the lead singer for Brazilian Girls, sets aside her last name and switches production style, but not persona, on her solo debut album, “Toujours.” She’s still the nonchalant, elusive, sophisticated and resolutely hedonistic figure she plays in Brazilian Girls songs. And Sabina, who was born in Rome to a German mother and an Italian father, still switches among the multiple languages of her upbringing – Italian, German, French, English – in not quite simultaneous translations. But on “Toujours,” she often trades Brazilian Girls’ international party beats, electronics and retro lounge orchestrations for music that looks toward garage rock and new wave, keeping the sound leaner. Sabina produced the album with Frederik Rubens, who is also Brazilian Girls’ producer (and the bassist on most of the new songs). But now her own electric guitar is at the center of the arrangements, often with just a simple picked arpeggio or a few succinct chords. She’s charming when she shows her wry bravado, as she does in “Viva L’Amour,” a cowbell-thumping rocker that begins, “Asked a man for a light and he caught on fire,” or the album’s title song, in which she jabs at an electric organ over a Latin beat and distorted guitars as she insists, “We might as well be happy.” But some of Sabina’s songs have a more enigmatic side, an undercurrent of restlessness and displacement. “Mystery River” sets up a breezy, hand-clapping 7/4 beat and mariachi trumpets, but Sabina oscillates between “I’ve got to get going back to my love” and “Nothing can stop me.” She closes the album with “Going Home,” an eerie waltz that’s not as certain as its title might seem; it ends as she wonders, “Ooh, where are you now?/ Ooh, where am I now?” Behind the peregrinations, there’s longing. ΩΩΩ (Jon Pareles, New York Times)


Lisa Ferraro featuring Houston Person, “Serenading the Moon” (Pranavasonic Universal). Leave it to a first-rate working jazz musician. Great comfort food tenor saxophonist Houston Person, for instance, a big-toned balladeer and bluesman for all time and almost any occasion. If you want to know who, in the tsunami of female jazz singers that has drenched us in the past 15 years, are the truly fine singers, watch for someone like Person to produce and play on discs like this. Which means that the accompanying group – especially bassist Ray Drummond, pianist James DiMartino and drummer Lewis Nash – is exceptionally fine. Ferraro is a veteran San Francisco singer with lusty contralto maturity that is in another universe entirely from so many ingenues in the jazz song business. With a musician like Person producing, he’s not afraid of showcasing his singer in duet with just a pianist (“I Wished on the Moon”), but he’s happy to reserve juicy spots on Duke Ellington’s “Lucky So and So” to play basic blue Stanley Turrentine lines and leave juicy choruses for Philadelphia pianist DiMartino and guitarist James Chirillo. Altogether beautiful blue-collar jazz from people who, on every track, are delighted to display how rich the basics remain. In a perfect world, everyone listening to a Diana Krall disc would follow it up with something like this. ∆∆∆½ (Jeff Simon)

World Music

Eleni Karaindrou, “Medea” (ECM). 72-year-old Greek singer/composer Eleni Karaindrou is probably best known for composing music for the films of Theo Angelopoulos. Even before his death in 2012, she became known throughout the world – in part through the efforts of Charles Lloyd and, especially Manfred Eicher’s ECM label – for her gorgeous and altogether unclassifiable work in musical drama. Here, for a production of Giorgios Cheimonas’ modern Greek adaptation of Euripides’ “Medea” is her gorgeously ritualistic musical journey through “Euripides’ bleak world of poetry” by means of “Ney (a Persian flute), lute and Constantinople Lyra, clarinets, santouri (Austro-Hungarian cembalom), violincello, percussion, sounds of the Orient, Greek, but also global, ready to release the drama of the Barbarian Medea, whose love for the Greek Jason made her renounce her homeland, father and brother.” Karaindrou freely admits that its brooding, droning intensity wouldn’t necessarily cohere as drama on disc without producer Eicher reshaping it to do so. The result is quite beautiful and not much like any other music you can name. ∆∆∆ (J.S.)


Daniil Trifonov, “The Carnegie Recital” (Deutsche Grammophon). Anyone wanting to year young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov’s way with the heavy artillery of the piano virtuoso’s repertoire can hear find discs of his performing a great deal of Chopin and Tchaikovsky First piano concerto. What is so fine about his debut on Deutsche Grammophon in this live recital at Carnegie Hall a year ago is his performance of Scriabin’s Second Piano Sonata in G-minor with the more predictable Liszt Piano Sonata in B-Minor and the 24 Preludes Op. 8. of Frederic Chopin. Trifonov won the 2011 Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow and then the Arthur Rubinstein competition in Tel Aviv. Young piano virtuosi are often accompanied by overstatement from many quarters, but you know you’re in rarefied territory when a young pianist has Martha Argerich, no less, saying “what he does with his hands is technically incredible.” and then paying tribute to “his touch – he has tenderness and also the demonic element. I have never heard anything like that.” No, the advent of Trifonov at Carnegie Hall isn’t exactly tantamount to the advent of Richter in New York more than a half century ago, but it more than promises a great career with a disc as superb as this one is. ∆∆∆∆ (J.S.)


Jason Vieaux, “Play” (Azica). You’ve got to love the title of the new disc by eclectic and versatile classical guitarist Jason Vieaux. It’s not “plays” but just “Play” without the “S” to convey the element that the musician hopes is paramount throughout the recording. Except for his own arrangement of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” Stanley Myers’ “Cavatina” from “The Deer Hunter” and Segovia’s “Estudio Sin Luz” (Blind Etude), which the primal guitar master composed after eye surgery, it’s largely full of the music of Latin America, especially Brazil. But when, for instance, Vieaux plays Jobim’s “A Felicidade,” it’s with a classical arrangement of it by a French guitarist that would, no doubt, daunt jazz guitarists so much after a mere chorus that they’d be likely to turn back and give up. With so much eclecticism in repertoire, you’d think the disc would lack focus, but nothing could be further from truth. Whether playing Myers’ piece (whose “G Major to C Major chord progression … still gets me every time”) or one of the many pieces by Manuel Ponce written for Segovia, Vieaux’s sound and musicianship give the disc total coherence and no small power to go along with its charm. ∆∆∆½ (J.S.)


Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, “An Amadeus Affair” (Steinway & Sons). The quicksilver spirit of Mozart shines in a new way in this disc of music for two pianos and four hands. It includes Mozart’s own sublime Sonata for Two Pianos in D. This is one of those pieces not to die without hearing. I never get over the incredible Andante, where the pianos echo each other like wind chimes. A more riotous virtuosity emerges in the reimaginings of Mozart by other great creative minds. Busoni’s “Duettino concertante” is modeled pretty closely on the last movement of Mozart’s 19th Piano Concerto, but it has new colors and architecture, and you hear new things in it. Anderson & Roe make it a marvel, each note just right. It’s like watching a beautiful and ingenious toy. A delight in a different direction is Liszt’s “Reminiscences of ‘Don Juan,’ ” a fantasy on Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The pianists are too mannered for my taste in the famous duet “La ci darem le mano.” But Liszt’s treatment of the Don’s “Champagne Aria” has to be heard to be believed. What fun. And what challenge, too. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe play pretty much as one and they sound as if they are enjoying it, too. I could have done without the concluding “Ragtime alla Turca” – too busy for me, and not my taste. And exploring their website, I was distressed by how they blogged about burning an ornate organ that dated to 1878 and had been well cared for before they bought it on Craigslist. I don’t care for what hip reasons they did it, destruction of instruments depresses me. On the other hand, you have to admire a pair who fashion their own Grand Scherzo based on the Act I finale of “Cosi Fan Tutte” in which, they write, “our four hands are involved in a furiously flirtatious dance upon a single keyboard.” It’s on this disc. They have been playing together since 2002, when they met as students at the Juilliard School. Their goal is to “make classical music a relevant and powerful force in society.” ∆∆∆ (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Daniel Smith, “Smokin’ Hot Bassoon Blues” (Summit Records). It hurts to have to break this news, but the album isn’t complete hilarity. The notes inform you that Smith recently lost his wife to cancer, and this project – they use that word, project – was a response to that. My heart goes out to Smith on the death of his wife, but I had been hoping this album was a joke. You just want to be free to laugh at the idea of a bassoon playing in Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” and Mingus’ “You’d Better Get It In Your Soul.” Well, even as what I guess you would call serious music, the disc holds its own. It begins with the bassoon burping along with “Night Train” (the lovable, lumbering James Brown dance tune some musicians call “The Elephant Walk”). Smith goes on to take graceful – at least for a bassoon – solos in such tracks as “Moanin’ ” and Jimmy Smith’s “Back At the Chicken Shack.” The bassoon might be good for the blues. Just the nature of the instrument makes it sound pained and tortured. A musician need just to hit a few of the right notes, and the bassoon does the rest. Smith has a good pianist in Robert Bosscher, who has an elegant jazz, rather than barrelhouse, approach. They have a good singer, Frank Senior, who they point out has been blind since birth. He gives a down-home sound to the Ray Charles numbers “What’d I Say” and “Hallelujah I Love Her So.” Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis helps give the Jimmy Smith number a good jazzy but gutbucket sound. We should get this troupe to the Pine Grill Reunion. ∆∆∆ (M.K.G.)

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