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Listening Post: Julian Lage, Susie Arioli and Kristjan Jarvi’s recording of Arvo Part

Jazz

Julian Lage, “Arclight” (Mack Avenue). This much is certain: jazz in the 21st century would have had a lot of trouble finding great guitarists if Gary Burton hadn’t been on the prowl for them for the past half century. It was Burton who, crucially, partnered up with Larry Coryell on some of the earliest (and juiciest) jazz rock fusion, it was Burton who more or less “discovered” Pat Metheny and, as if that bit of history from another century weren’t enough, was the most important early presenter of 28-year-old guitarist Julian Lage. This is Lage’s first recording for Mack Avenue. He’d been known since the grand old age of 8 when a documentary short called “Julian at Eight” was nominated for an Oscar. Here is Lage after he moved from acoustic guitar playing to a Fender Telecaster, which he calls in this record’s press notes “the most refined emobodiment of the modern guitar” (a notably odd judgment from a jazz guitarist). Lage’s taste in what to play is rare and infectious. He’ll find material from, say, British band leader Spike Hughes (“poignant, melodic music that had a quirk to it. I think of it as the pre-be-bop generation, when country music and jazz and swing were in this weird, wild-west period”) to Keith Jarrett’s “American Quintet Period” (“an improvisational jazz era that had such a rich connection to songs and folk music. This was the concept for the album.”). Not that Lage’s originals are negligible either They’re not. Scott Colley is the bassist in his trio, Kenny Wollesen his drummer. My only complaint with the disc is that, at less than 40 minutes in length, it really should have been longer. Three and a half stars. (Jeff Simon)

Susie Arioli, “Spring” (Spectra Musique). Susie Arioli is a fifty-something jazz singer from Quebec who is less well-known, of course, than Diana Krall or Holly Cole and is generally taken less seriously than Carol Welsman but she has been a total charmer for years and a marvelous rule-breaker in the jazz singer’s trade. Any female jazz singer who can fill one record with so many songs by country Dadaist Roger Miller is a singer worth your attention. The cream of Canadian jazz is on this disc’s band – pianist and vibraphonist Don Thompson, tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer, bassist Neil Swainson, guitarist Reg Schwager, among others. And John Snyder, no less, is the record’s producer – the man whose past includes some records of historic jazz purity (by Ornette Coleman, among others). It’s good fun all the way through. Three stars. (Jeff Simon)

Classical

Arvo Part, “Passacaglia and Other Works: The Kristjan Jarvi Sound Project” with violinist Annie Akiko Meyers, MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Naive). This is the fourth volume in a series of recordings of music from the Balkans and Baltic Sea that conductor Kristjan Jarvi has made under the title of “the Kristjan Jarvi Sound Project.” It’s dedicated to Estonian composer Arvo Part in his 80th birthday year. Jarvi’s father Neeme conducted the premiere versions of Part’s works for decades in a musical friendship with lasted 60 years. Single volume anthologies of Part are by no means unusual but this is an uncommonly full and rich one that goes way beyond the more conventional portraits when they restrict themselves to the great mystic masterpieces that have contributed so much to making Part’s reputation: “Tabula Rasa,” and “Fratres.” This disc begins with “Credo,” an eventful piece so controversial in its synthesis of Christ’s admonition “do not resist an evil person” with the Old Testament espousal of “an eye for an eye” when first performed that it was isolated, rejected by Part’s peers and even banned. Part’s mystic music after fleeing Estonia for Vienna is the more familiar music we hear on most of the rest of the record “Mein Weg,” the string orchestra version of “Summa,” two versions of “Fratres,” including the violin concerto version performed by Anne Akiko Meyers. The final works include the first recording of the 2015 revision of the 2005 “La Sindone,” one of his most beautiful works. Three and a half stars. (Jeff Simon)

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