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Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases

> Jazz

Wes Montgomery, "Echoes of Indiana Avenue" (Resonance). There's no way that when all the accounting is done for the year 2012 (if the prophecy in the Mayan calendar hasn't destroyed us all by then) that this won't be among the best and more important jazz discs of the year. It goes well beyond its status as "the first full album of previously unheard Montgomery music in over 25 years," too. These tapes are said to be the earliest known recordings of the guitar god as a leader, predating by a couple of years, some of them, his Riverside debut in 1959. This was the wonder of the jazz guitar world by whom visiting jazz musicians would be dumbfounded whenever they visited his hometown of Indianapolis. They'd hear the local monster guitarist at some gig or after-hours session and go back to New York or Los Angeles with tales of one of the greatest jazz musicians in the country setting Indianapolis inner city clubs on fire with his playing. So for the years when these performances were recorded -- and those following couple of years -- Wes Montgomery was probably the legendary "unknown" in American music, a mind-bending virtuoso just waiting for his national introduction. His recording life lasted barely a decade until his death at 45 of a heart attack. This, then, is the ideal Wes Montgomery on disc -- the full-fledged 400-horsepower player performing wonders with his thumb and his octaves. This is Montgomery when he was just a brain-wobbling guitarist, before his stardom in jazz caused all manner of production depredations (that had to be undone sometimes in later releases). There's even a version of Monk's "Straight No Chaser" here in which Montgomery's brother Buddy plays some of the best piano you've probably ever heard him play. The fade-out ending for it is immensely frustrating. The way this terrific disc came into being more than a half century after the fact is this: Tapes were passed from hand to hand for years. When the great jazz producer Michael Cuscuna discovered that previously unheard tapes of Montgomery were being sold on eBay, he heard samples of the terrific music, bought the rest unheard and ultimately convinced Resonance Records to bring it out. And that they've gone in optimal style -- an enclosed 24-page booklet of vintage photos, essays and reminiscences by Dan Morgenstern, David Baker, Monk Montgomery, Buddy Montgomery, Pat Martino and Bill Milkowski. A major occasion in American music here. Its official release date is March 7, the day after what would have been Montgomery's 88th birthday. Review: 4 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Simon)

Todd Clouser's A Love Electric, "20th Century Folk Selections" (Royal Potato). Start right out with "location, location, location" as the real estate folks would have it. This octet led by guitarist Clouser is described as "Baja, Mexico-based, by way of Minneapolis." And if that doesn't tell you something about the fierce individuality of this bunch, just listen to the music that gives you guitar-and-trumpet-ed versions of everything from Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" and Buddy Holly's "Everyday" to the Beastie Boys' "Gratitude" (performed with nasty counterpoint), Neil Young's "The Needle and The Damage Done," Lou Reed's "Heroin," Pearl Jam's "Release" and Nirvana's "All Apologies." Clouser thinks they're all "folkloric in nature," which is not an argument you'd want to dispute for very long despite the amount of stretching required to make it. The rhythms of drummer Hernan Hecht are mostly rock rhythms, the voicings by trumpet players Adam Meckler and Steven Bernstein and trombonist Rick Parker sometimes sound like pure Salvation Army street corner music. The references to surviving drugs in the repertoire obviously tell you more. The band is never less than fascinating, all the more so I'd imagine in live performance. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)

> Pop Country

Glen Campbell, "Meet Glen Campbell" (EMI). If Whitney Houston hadn't been pronounced dead 28 hours earlier, the likeliest tear-jerking moment at the Grammys might have been the performance of Glen Campbell, who's admitted struggling with Alzheimer's but continues to perform for as long as he's able. His recent disc "Ghost on the Canvas" helped at least one subsequent generation become acquainted with the 75-year-old musician as well as with the poignancy of his story. No matter how much acclaim greeted this reissued disc in 2008, it didn't begin to stop people in their tracks the way "Ghost on the Canvas" did. It's a good record, rather wonderfully supplemented here by 2008 remixes of "Gentle on My Mind" and "Galveston" and performances of "Wichita Lineman," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "All I Want Is You" from an "AOL Sessions Concert" that was held to promote the disc. The voice doesn't have that youthful purity but what it still has is impressive enough. His guitar "picking" is more impressive than ever. You'd have to be made of soggy wool not to be moved by those 2008 performances of hits that helped define America's universal pop music in their time. Review: 3 stars (J.S.)

> Classical

Angels & Demons, Tim Buzbee, tuba, Faith Debow, piano (Albany). Admit it, you have secretly thought that "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission" would have been so much prettier on a tuba. At last it is done, on this hilarious but admirable CD of tuba and piano. A tuba playing alone, with piano, has a strange dignity. In two ravishing Brahms' songs, against Debow's glorious accompaniment, it sounds like a cross between a French horn and a bassoon -- muted, impossibly low. I had to giggle at Schumann's poignant "In der Fremde." Buzbee begins in such a comically low octave, as if, I don't know, a dolphin is singing. The new music is all so-so. But you have to love what composer James Meador says of "Apocalyptic Voices": "A combination of predictions of the end of the world seemingly coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, massive destruction from earthquakes and tsunamis, worldwide economic crisis and an extremely bitter divorce influenced the thematic material and musical ideas in this piece." Ha, ha! Also, the disc ends with Buzbee's own "Tubifer," in which a narrator tells a story of happenings on the planet Oompah over low, threatening, deep-vibrating, inexorable tuba melodies. Review: 2 1/2 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)

The Knights, A Second of Silence: Music of Satie, Glass, Schubert and Feldman conducted by Eric Jacobsen. (Knightsnyc). The great Buffalo resident composer Morton Feldman was lecturing some young composers in 1986 and referred to "that kind of hovering, as if you're in a register you've never heard. That's one of the magics of Schubert." It's the "magic" that one supposes is responsible for this anthology of music by Schubert, Glass, Satie and Feldman that seems about equal parts evocative and perplexing. Though the disc proclaims "the pieces featured here all evoke in some measure the tranquil 'hovering' described by Feldman" and that "dissolution into silence remains their ultimate object," there is more than a little gymnastic listening ability required of us here to find so much kinship in Glass' "Company," Feldman's "Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety" and Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony No. 8 and Symphony No. 3 in D Major. What Feldman heard in Schubert and pointed out for our edification isn't necessarily the same as what he wanted in his own music. Not all "tranquility" is interchangeable. All that notwithstanding, these performances by the New York chamber orchestra that calls itself the Knights are quite fine and beguiling for what they are. But that's always true of this orchestra. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)