Listening Post: Little Feat; Matthias Goerne, Helmut Deutsch and Eric Schneider; Europa Galante; Prokofiev; Pete Robbins; Lisa Hilton; and Andrew Litton - The Buffalo News

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Listening Post: Little Feat; Matthias Goerne, Helmut Deutsch and Eric Schneider; Europa Galante; Prokofiev; Pete Robbins; Lisa Hilton; and Andrew Litton


Little Feat, Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990 (13 CD box set; Rhino). All too often overlooked when it comes to rock ’n’ roll revisionism, the work of Little Feat stands as some of the most inspired and consistently soulful rock music of the 1970s. You can still hear the band’s influence in the world of jam-based rock, from Phish to Galactic and back again. This new Rhino box grabs the band’s finest albums, beginning with its 1971 self-titled debut, and concluding with 1990’s “Representing the Mambo,” with the addition of a bonus disc of unreleased material known as “Outtakes from Hotcakes and Outtakes.” When guitarist/vocalist Lowell George led the band, as he did until his death in 1979, Little Feat was one of the funkiest groups on the planet. The sound of New Orleans consistently informed Little Feat’s writing and its ensemble interplay, a fact that is amply demonstrated by the career-defining 1978 live album “Waiting for Columbus,” offered here in expanded remastered form. Little Feat never released a less than excellent album, but the standouts here, in addition to the must-have “Columbus,” are the group’s first three albums, “Little Feat,” “Sailin’ Shoes” and “Dixie Chicken.” There’s not much in the way of extras within the “Rad Gumbo” box, but owning the definitive editions of these classics should be required for any serious student of rock history. ΩΩΩΩ (Jeff Miers)


Schubert, “Wanderers” Nachtlied performed by Matthias Goerne and Helmut Deutsch with Eric Schneider, piano (Harmonia Mundi, two discs). Listening to Matthias Goerne, you have to marvel at his wonderful tone. He has a marvelous legato line, and packs tremendous force. When he sings a galloping song like “Der Musensohn,” his rich, deep voice is thrilling. On the other hand he has always struck me as grim and often sullen. A few times over the years I thought there was hope, but listening to these 36 songs, I kept regretting all over again that we don’t hear more of his softer side, if indeed there is one. The love songs aren’t loving. It’s as if he doesn’t feel it. And he misses things in the music, opportunities for fun and flirtation and humor and poetry. He’s a powerhouse and I feel funny wanting more, but I do, I can’t help it. This tremendous music requires nothing less. The song list on this set is good, a combination of more obscure songs I was happy to get to know better, and famous songs (including “Death and the Maiden,” in which Goerne, predictably, makes a great Death). ΩΩΩ (Mary Kunz Goldman)


“Il Diario Di Chiara: Music from La Pieta in Venice in the 18th Century performed by Europa Galante conducted by Fabio Biondi (Note 1 Music, disc plus DVD.). What a terrific idea for a disc this is. It is, suitably enough, based on a film by Lucrezia LeMoli about a great subject that was just lying there for the taking for years. La Pieta in Venice is the orphanage and home for cast off young girls that is most renowned for being the place whose orchestra – one of the best in all of Europe in its time – saw the first performance of the works of Vivaldi. Its great virtuoso violinist was Chiara (or Chiaretto i.e. Little Chiara) to whom Vivaldi dedicated the B-flat major concerto heard here (also heard is his G-major Sinfonia for Strings RV 149). What’s so little known aside from Vivaldi’s crucial relationship with a most unexpected 18th century orchestra is how much other music was composed for it by lesser known composers of its time. And that, rather wonderfully, is what we’re mostly hearing here. Only two pieces are by Vivaldi, the rest are by Italian baroque contemporaries who composed for what we now think of as Vivald’s orchestra – Porta, Porpora, Martinelli, Latilla, Perotti and Bermasconi. And then there’s the DVD of the 32 minute film to put it all into context. Marvelous. ΩΩΩ½ (Jeff Simon)


Prokofiev, Piano Concertos 1-5 performed by pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Gianandrea Noseda (Chandos, two discs). Pianist Bavouzet wants us to know that contrary to likely belief, he has performed Prokofiev’s five piano concertos complete over the course of two consecutive evenings without permanent damage either to the piano virtuoso or the sensibilities of the audience. He’s done it twice, once in Russia and once in Warsaw. “A certain physical stamina is vital” for the pianist he says, “and all those who play the second concerto for the first time will recall the sensation of the hands being ‘broken’ by the time they arrive at those final hammered G’s. But unlike the concertos by Rachmaninoff, those by Prokofiev are all different in form and structure.” This is an excellent set of the Prokofiev five concertos distinguished both by excellent performance by Bavouzet and the BBC orchestra and the kind of disc notes that make the set – one of the standouts in Chandos’ dedication to Prokofiev – a major and variegated pleasure. ΩΩΩ (J.S.)


Pete Robbins, “Pyramid” (Hate Laugh Music). Woe betide any plodding literalist trying to get in the way of contemporary jazz musicians. Bless them, they couldn’t have less interest in reinforcing old constrictive ideas of genre and extending the conventional repertoire of neo-bebop out into infinity. Anyone disappointed in Vijay Iyer’s recent neo-”Third Stream” disc “Mutations” combining jazz and classical music needs to know about this slightly earlier quartet disc by alto saxophonist Pete Robbins in which Iyer is the group’s tremendous pianist. Here is a jazz disc that goes out in the exact opposite direction from “Mutations” i.e. toward the repertoire of contemporary rock and pop (and some that isn’t so contemporary). It opens, for instance, with Guns ‘n’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine,” and before it’s over adds some acid to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and finds its own roads to Stevie Wonder’s “Too High,” Nirvana’s “Lithium” and, yes, Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman.” Robbins may be the managing director of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music but there isn’t much safe joyless academicism in this quartet disc. Robbins says “I wanted Vijay’s percussive vibe as a pianist, so the music would have real rhythmic drive.” Bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Tyshawn Sorey no small bit to that. ΩΩΩ (J.S.)


Lisa Hilton, “Kaleidoscope” (Ruby Slippers). Here is another first rate saxophone/piano conventional quartet, in this case led by the beautiful composer/pianist Lisa Hilton who’d have trouble these days convening a more impressive quartet of working wonders for her music than tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Hilton is just as powerfully given to simple ostinati in her compositions and arrangments as Robbins (see above) but what she does with them is much more easily assimilable than the obvious percussive acidulousness of a quartet centered around pianist Vijay Iyer. Hilton is a much more romantic player and composer and musical thinker than either Iyer or Robbins. On one of the all-time greatest pop music arias for romantically inclined jazz musicians “When I Fall In Love” (listen to Ben Webster with Art Tatum or John Coltrane with Johnny Hartman), she maintains its aria quality while playing it over all sorts of Hiltonesque rhythmic figures including the damndest lope you’ve ever heard. It’s the old tune, completely recomposed. The rest are all Hilton originals and she is, for sure, one of the most immediately likable of all contemporary jazz composers. She couldn’t be in better company. ΩΩΩ½ (J.S.)


Andrew Litton, “A Tribute to Oscar Peterson,” (Bis). Among the sadder things about the divide that separates jazz and classical music is the seemingly irresistible temptation on both sides for musicians to condescend to those on the other. Let’s have, then, no condescension for ocean-hopping classical conductor Andrew Linton’s playing of transcriptions of piano solos by the great Oscar Peterson. Yes, they’re transcriptions and no, Litton is clearly no unpredictable jazz pianist but when he claims he was “hooked” on Oscar as a 16-year old receiving his first Peterson record as a birthday present (from friend David Frankel who’d grow up to be the director of the film “The Devil Wears Prada”), you’re not hearing a musician trying to B.S. his way through a tribute. “He did things daily at the piano while spontaneously improvising that the rest of us spend a lifetime trying to achieve” he says now. You won’t hear the urgent propulsion of a jazz musician here as much as you’ll hear the admiration of technique of a trained classical player. Nothing here invited condescension, though, of any sort. ΩΩΩ (J.S.)

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