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Listening Post: Lorraine Feather, a Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd and music of Stravinsky and Chaminade

Jazz

Lorraine Feather, “Flirting With Disaster” (Jazzed Media). It is literally true that Lorraine Feather is “too cool.” We must put a stop to that now. When you put it all together, you know why she is the most talented little-known master in all of American vernacular music at the moment. She is the daughter of the late ubiquitous jazz writer and proponent Leonard Feather, which means that, get this, Billie Holiday was her godmother. The songs she writes are mind-bogglingly literate and witty and unlike anyone’s, not even Bob Dorough’s or Blossom Dearie’s or Dave Frishberg’s. Try this from “Be My Muse”: “You lure me like a deep-sea cave/The wiser soul avoids/When you’re near, I’m fierce and brave/You could have me/Gobbling inspiration like a shark on steroids/Don’t want to shop for ski boots with you./Move to Rye/Raise malamutes with you/Don’t want to do/My taxes with you/Just want you to.” Or this from “Disastrous Consequences”: “Back when ‘Revolver’ was number one,/ You blasted my world/ You sent it spinning/ An Uncle Charlie/ Right to the moon/ And parts beyond/You admired me. I was giddy/Blithely forgave our offenses/You were taken and I was aware/ And there were disastrous consequences.” Are you ready for a singer who describes the opener on this disc as beginning with “Bartok-inspired vocal harmonies?” Or how she and Russ Ferrante got the idea for “Disastrous Consequences” from Ferrante telling her about Gyorgi Ligeti and her subsequent investigation of his music? Look, she’s done lyrics for Disney movies, won seven Emmy nominations, a few Grammy nominations and recorded 11 solo albums as an artist since the late 1990s as her publicity tells us. Her music does well on all the lesser but hipper sales charts. And, for all that, she is almost unknown in an America that can probably describe every selfie Kim Kardashian ever took and everyone Donald Trump has insulted in the last 48 hours. Where are the late-night shows to introduce her to THEIR audiences? Someone has got to figure out a way for her to make an enduring swipe at popularity. In the meantime, if you want to find a wonderfully sung recital of some of the coolest song lyrics by any singer/songwriter alive, try this. To be released next week. 3.5 ½ (Jeff Simon)

Southern Rock

Various Artists: Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More for the Fans” (Loudandproud, two discs plus DVD). It sounds like a tautology but it isn’t: The greatest thing, by far, about popular music in America is just how popular it is. Here, from Atlanta last November is continuing proof that nothing is ever likely to kill the music of the consummate Southern Rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. An airplane crash couldn’t do it. Changing rock fashions couldn’t do it. Sclerosis, high-blood pressure and other ailments of advancing age couldn’t do it. So here, from Nov. 14 in Atlanta’s Fox Theater – where the original Lynyrd Skynyrd performed the record “One More From the Road” to save the joint – is a convocation of likely celebrants to make sure nobody ever stops loving the daylights of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music. Alabama does “Gimme Three Steps,” Gregg Allman does “Tuesday’s Gone,” Trace Adkins performs “What’s Your Name,” Peter Frampton performs “Call Me The Breeze,” moe and John Hiatt do “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” Warren Haynes performs “That Smell,” Cheap Trick gives us “Gimme Back My Bullets” and much, much more. By the time it’s over it seems that every roots rocker south of the Mason-Dixon line at the time found its way to Atlanta to finish off the evening with “Sweet Home Alabama.” Here are two CDs and a DVD of the event. It’s a musical province we all seem to live in still even if you’ve spent your whole life up north burning and dissing confederate battle flags at every opportunity. What began in Jacksonville, Fla., 41 years ago belongs to American ears from sea to shining sea. Don Was produced. To his credit, it wound up a tribute by people who actually sound as if they’re offering tribute rather than pleasing agents and corporate folks who wanted them to be there. ½ (Jeff Simon)

Classical

Chaminade, “The Flatterer: Piano Music of Cecile Chaminade” performed by Joanne Polk (Steinway and Sons). Consider the fate of French romantic pianist/composer Cecile Chaminade (1857-1944). When she toured the United States in 1907, according to this disc’s notes by Dr. Jeffrey Langford (the husband of the disc’s pianist), the public liked her, but the critics doomed her. “Chaminade found her delicate lyrical works accused of being too feminine, while her bolder and more substantial pieces were attacked as too masculine (not delicate enough?)” We know better now. What that century cursed, ours relishes. Pitch all adjectives that can be modified by the word “too” over the side of the boat and just listen to the music on this disc and she seems to be a complete charmer – and in the C-minor piano sonata Op. 21 something impressive and just as appealing. The title piece, “The Flatterer,” calls to mind Gottschalk and Scott Joplin along with Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words.” Her etudes sound like potential crowd-pleasers for all manner of pianists, whether she described them as “melodique” or “romantique” or “pathetique” or “symphonique.” ½ (Jeff Simon)

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Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos performed by Arabella Steinbacher, violin, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Charles Dutoit, conductor, (Pentatone). Listen up, little Suzuki violinists: Practice your little ditties, and you could wind up like German violinist Arabella Steinbacher. The Suzuki method is in her blood. She started with Suzuki, and then went on to Juilliard’s Dorothy DeLay, and now, at 33, she is living the violin dream. Her performances of these two warhorse concertos are lyrical and very enjoyable. Warhorses are warhorses for a reason – they’re just darned good, and Steinbacher acknowledges that in the notes. She sounds a little sheepish about recording them – she said the idea only recently occurred to her, although she has often performed the music live. That humility bodes well for the performances, and to her credit, Steinbacher is not out to reinvent the wheel. She simply plays the music with grace and intuition. It sort of reflects Shinichi Suzuki’s philosophy of not being competitive, grandstanding or overbearing. And in the end you find yourself thinking not of her playing, however competent and mellifluous it is. You find yourself instead thinking of the melodic genius that went into these pieces, two of the most famous concertos of all time. I would call that a success.  (Mary Kunz Goldman)

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