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Listening Post: Stephen Still, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Charnett Moffett, Dave Douglas


Stephen Stills, “Carry On” (Rhino, four discs). A gorgeous, long-overdue distillation of the genius of Stephen Stills, the four-disc box “Carry On” serves multiple purposes. First and foremost, it reminds us what a fantastic songwriter, singer, guitar player and constructor of vocal harmonies Stills was at his late ’60s/early ’70s peak. But therein lies the rub – “Carry On” also serves to remind us that Stills never reached that peak again. With only a very limited number of exceptions, Stills stopped being the Stills that gave us “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” and “For What It’s Worth” after roughly 1972. The first two discs of “Carry On” concentrate on material from that era, and they are simply magnificent. The second two pack a ton of late ’70s and ’80s pieces into their expanse, and they amount to a sometimes painful “Oh, how the mighty have fallen” experience. Stills’ lifestyle clearly took its toll on his once-golden throat during this period. That lifestyle also seemed to create a barrier between the man and the muse – most of the songs collected on the latter two discs of this collection are not particularly well-written, either. It’s one of the great shames of the rock era, really. Stills didn’t burn out – he simply faded away over the course of a few decades. That said, the genius of the first two discs, and the well-assembled overview of the decline offered by the second two, make “Carry On” well worth having for the Stills completist. 3 stars (Jeff Miers)


Mozart, Requiem Realizations performed by the King’s Choir of Cambridge University and the Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Stephen Cleobury (King’s College, two discs). It isn’t every great classical masterpiece, after all, that is the subject of one of the greatest movies about the artistic process ever made. But Mozart’s unfinished Requiem was the center of Milos Forman’s great film “Amadeus” which means that audiences know more, perhaps, about its history than any other masterwork of the entire classical era. What you have here from the King’s Choir of Cambridge University is, on one disc, the famous completion of the work by Sussmayr with completions of individual movements by others. On the second disc and written by Cliff Eisen is “An Audio Documentary” about Mozart’s Requiem which makes this two-disc set the only artifact extant which could possibly rival Forman’s masterful and hugely enjoyable film as a source of information about Mozart’s Requiem. For what it is, it’s unexceptionable. Highly recommended. (three and a half stars.) (Jeff Simon)


Haydn, Piano Concertos performed by pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin and Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie, conductor (Hyperion). Buffalo got to see Les Violons du Roy just about a year ago, when the esteemed chamber orchestra played in the Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series. The Violins of the King, as their name translates to, partner with Marc-Andre Hamelin for graceful and never fussy performances of three Haydn concertos. This is music many will recognize. It catches your attention and keeps it – one hallmark of a master. This is relatively tame terrain for Hamelin, who is known for exploring thorny music much farther off the beaten track. His ongoing interest in Haydn must have something to do with the fact that Haydn’s piano music is less explored than the music of the more adventurous Mozart. Hamelin’s performances of the concertos are sensitive, intuitive and sometimes haunting. He makes a case for the music’s depth of emotion, something not often enough associated with Haydn. There are moments that make you realize Haydn was far better than you thought. Three stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Schubert, “Licht und Liebe” (“Light and Love”) (Harmonia Mundi). This collection of songs amounts to an informal “Schubertiade” – the whimsical name that Franz Schubert’s friends gave to soirees where they would sit around, drink, and sing and play Schubert’s music. What evenings they must have been. These songs, written from anywhere from one to four voices with fortepiano accompaniment, are pure genius. As a teenager I loved the medieval-themed ballad “The Singer,” and I credit Schubert now with how clearly I remember it. Most of the other songs aren’t well-known, though most of them grab you on first hearing. There is a drinking song, sung in unison, and a comic skit like something Mozart would write. It’s poignant how some of the songs, cheery on the surface, have bittersweet undertones – death, in that era, was never far away. As the disc goes on the songs seem to grow more philosophical and God-conscious, as if the hours are passing and the wine bottles are being drained. The four eminent singers -- Marlis Petersen, Anke Vondung, Werner Gura and Konrad Jarnot – have been involved in other ventures like this one, singing the convivial songs of Brahms and Schumann. They’re all superb and sing beautifully together and solo, with natural expression and an appropriately laid-back charm. Berner does a great job at the period fortepiano, holding it all together. Three and a half stars. (M.K.G.)


Charnett Moffett, “The Bridge: Solo Bass Works” (Motema). What? You mean you haven’t been scouring the channels of jazz information in search of a new solo bass recital? If not, you’re probably of the opinion that there isn’t a jazz bass player alive who is both virtuosic and interesting enough to sustain the attention of non-bass players and bass fetishists (whoever they’d be) for the full length of a CD. But annotater Howard Mandel is not wrong here in saying Moffett’s playiing here “can touch anyone who loves music, regardless of instrumentation or genre.” He is an utterly extraordinary jazz bass player and always has been. His father, drummer Charles Moffett, was legendary for his grandiloquently melodic playing with Ornette Coleman where he was, one of the three greatest drummers Ornette had in a very long and fabled career (the others were his first group drummer Billy Higgins and his first drummer with his “Prime Time” band Ronald Shannon Jackson). Charnett Moffett is no fool. As brilliant and attention-grabbing as his playing is, he usually manages to keep each individual thing he plays relatively short whether it’s Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song” or his four-minute wedding of “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho,” with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Nothing on this disc is longer than four and a half minutes. Quite a few are only a minute or two long or less (including “Nature Boy” and, would you believe, a Monk Medley). His instrument may not be an instrument which people are accustomed to hearing at length, but his musical mind is more than interesting enough to maintain attention and more than a little delight. Three stars (J.S.)


Dave Douglas Quintet,Time Travel” (Greenleaf). Nothing is ever likely to stop 50-year-old trumpet player Dave Douglas from having one of the more exalted reputations in contemporary jazz. Nor should it. He is nothing if not fecund, though, which means that not all of his projects are worthy of equal esteem – and that’s putting it mildly. His importations of other ethnic traditions into jazz are almost uniformly fascinating. His last disc “Be Still” was a disc of spirituals and American classics recorded at the behest of his mother. This disc from the exact same Douglas quintet is almost diametrically opposite – abstraction reminiscent of Andrew Hill which, according to Douglas, was spurred on in part by “what David Toomey wrote in his book ‘The New Time Travelers’ – how the concept of time travel has been around a long time, and how it is evident in the way we think and the way we create: backward, forward, all directions at once, beyond the speed of light, rearranging our understanding of cause and effect.” Douglas is an intellectual and musical abstractionist who has no fear of building his music out of abstract lines and coiling improvisations from himself and his fellow front line horn player, Jon Irabagon. As a trumpet player he resembles Freddie Hubbard in that he almost never plays muted and is far more interested in roughneck virtuosity than tonal beauty (Miles Davis might as well have never lived, as far as Douglas is concerned). An always interesting disc but not always an absorbing one. Three stars (J.S.)


Kendrick Scott Oracle, “Conviction” (Concord). Scott – a drummer with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard – is a first-rate musician and an adventurous mind when it comes to disc creation. His band is so good though (featuring tenor saxophonist, John Ellis, keyboardist Taylor Eigsti and guitarist and fellow Houstonite Mike Moreno) that the vocals on the disc – on “Too Much” for instance – often seem to be intrusions into the disc’s texture. But this is a jazz disc whose every track seems thought out and freshly presented. Though Scott is nothing if not rhythmically creative, it’s not a drummer’s disc in what is often the worse sense i.e. a tedious percussion showpiece. Quite the opposite is true here. A good disc, often rather haunting. Three and a half stars. (J.S.)