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Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases


Bach, Sonatas, Lara St. John, violin; Marie-Pierre Langlamet, harp (Ancalagon). These are Bach sonatas for harpsichord, adapted for the harp and released on St. John's own Ancalagon Records (yes, the name comes from Tolkien). Two of the sonatas were written for flute and harpsichord, and two for violin and harpsichord. All lend themselves well to their new setting. Canadian violinist Lara St. John and Marie-Pierre Langlamet, the principal harpist of the Berlin Philharmonic, take a low-key, companionable approach that suits the music's ingenious clarity. St. John has a good gutsy tone, not overly engineered. Her violin, the 1779 "Salabue" Guadagnini on loan through an anonymous donor, gives the music a crisp period sound. Langlamet, too, takes a clear and creative approach, and the two of them give the music an impressive range of dynamics and textures. This is music of melting loveliness, capped by the popular, poignant "Siciliana" from the Flute and Harpsichord Sonata in E Flat, BWV 1031. 4 stars (out of 4) (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Gilbert & Sullivan, "The Pirates of Penzance," the Ohio Light Opera, J. Lynn Thompson, conductor (Albany). It's great how Gilbert & Sullivan's Victorian silliness stays popular. "The Pirates of Penzance" holds up especially well, not only because pirates continue to fascinate, but because of the terrific songs. Songs like "For I Am a Pirate King" show the magic that comes when artists get it just right without trying too hard. "Poor Wandering One" is a sweet tune. And the outrageously clever "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General" has such good bones that people make a sport of rewriting it. Check the Internet and you will find gems like "I Am The Very Model of a Microsoft Executive." It doesn't matter what political implications the songs originally had, they're just fun. The Ohio Light Opera, a troupe popular with the Western New York operetta set (and yes, there is such a set) has a rocking good time with the show, with Gary Moss as the Pirate King, Stephen Faulk as Frederic, Karla Hughes as Mabel and Nicholas Wuehrmann as the very model of a modern major general. 4 stars (M.K.G.)



Waylon: The Music Inside -- A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings Vol. II (Average Joe's Entertainment). "Country," of course, doesn't begin to describe this. When you've got people like Dierks Bentley, Hank Williams Jr., Justin Moore and Jessi Colter (Lady Waylon) mining the outlaw honky tonk and rowdy bar raunch of the Jennings' songbook, you're not exactly confined to someone's front porch listening to parlor sentiments, pedal steel whinings and sweet nothings from someone's dobro. Waylon, bless him, was an early cohort of Buddy Holly so first rate primal rockabilly was the place he started out. A lot of what came after that was growling and stomping and piano thumping and antisocial guitar rocking. And that's what you'll find here in the second disc from a Waylon tribute series begun by his widow, Colter, and his son Shooter. Even the supposed innocence of something like "Bob Wills Is Still The King" by Jack Ingram comes with guitars acting up and sounding ready to bust loose any minute. Jewel, at the end, singing "Dreaming My Dreams With You" sounds like a hangover hallucination from the night before. There's a lot of slide guitar nastiness here. And roadhouse beer fumes hang over the whole disc. What else could you possibly want? 3 1/2 stars (Jeff Simon)



Jamie Ousley, A Sea of Voices (Tie Records). This disc from the jazz bass player comes to us from Florida and what a beautiful disc it is. Ousley teaches bass at South Florida University and for most of this, it's a trio disc with pianist Joe Davidian. Don't ask why singer Nanami Morikawa suddenly shows up to sing a gorgeous and pure version of "Shenandoah" in Japanese over Ousley's bass figures. But such is the beauty of it -- and the rest of the diatonic, consonant music making -- that you won't mind a bit. It's as if Florida had given us a disciple of Charlie Haden to team up with a pianist to give us jazz melodic, middle American in its country and hymnal harmonies and completely irresistible. The ostensible program for the disc is "water-inspired songs" that "reflect my love of nature and all things beautiful" but, in practice, it means a lot of Ousley's very pretty tunes as well as Coldplay's "Swallowed in the Sea." There's no question that like some of Pat Metheny or Paul Winter or Oregon, this borders on New Age but it's so outrageously pretty in its elemental way that you might almost think Ousley and his friends have rediscovered something. 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)


Tania Maria, "Tempo" (Naxos/Naive). Brazilian pianist and singer Tania Maria recorded her first disc in Brazil in 1971. There's no question that the eruptive girlishness that was so much a matter of her celebratory music 30 and 40 years ago has transformed into something else almost entirely in this intimate disc of duets with the great bassist Eddie Gomez. Her voice is, of course, deeper, rougher and more penetrating. Her scats and sambas are more effortless. She doesn't have to prove anything to anybody at the age of 63. This is just a great performer teaming with another great performer to explore her own nature in yet another, if different, musical prime. How great it is to hear her again. 3 stars (J.S.)


Amy Cervini, "Digging Me Digging You" (Anzic). The voice isn't the wickedly witty little voice of "hip jazz pixie" Blossom Dearie -- not even close. But, hey, Amy Cervini was smart enough to sing Dearie's inimitable repertoire with some awfully good musicians (pianist Bruce Barth, drummer Matt Wilson, etc.) That means Rodger's and Hart's "Everything I've Got," Howard Dietz's "Rhode Island," Dave Frishberg's "My Attorney Bernie," Yip Harburg's words to Harold Arlen's "Down With Love," etc. And all performed by those who know musical wit and how it's created. Not authentic Blossom but even ersatz-Blossom is pretty good. 3 stars (J.S.)