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Jeff Simon's 'The Good Stuff' you should be paying attention to

Here are some records of the moment very much worth paying attention to:


Led Zeppelin, "How the West Was Won" (Atlantic/Rhino three discs)

Do you want to know why Led Zeppelin just couldn't continue after the death of drummer John Bonham? Listen to these three discs of 1972 performances from Long Beach and L.A. It's all extraordinary, but listen especially to Bonham on "Whole Lotta Love." After Bonham contributing so much to the group, how could Jimmy Page and Robert Plant want to go on without him? 4 stars out of 4.


Schubert, Piano Sonata in D-Flat MajorD. 960 and Four Impromptus D. 935 performed by pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin (Hyperion)

Some of the most sublime of all piano music performed unforgettably by the Canadian who is one of the greatest current concert pianists. 4 stars.


Brad Mehldau, "After Bach" (Nonesuch)

Smashing Bach and jazz together is a crummy kitsch idea and always has been. Unless, that is, you're a brilliant and creative jazz pianist getting harmonic ideas from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" that take you very far away into remarkable and inventive solo music of your own. A complete and completely unexpected triumph. 4 stars.


Edward Simon, "Sorrows and Triumphs" (Sunnyside)

The Latin American pianist has good company -- David Binney on alto saxophone, Scott Colley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. Add Gretchen Parlato on vocals and Adam Rogers on guitar and the Imani Winds. A lesson in 21st century jazz seriouness without solemnity or torpor. 3 1/2 stars.


Turtle Island Quartet, "Bird's Eye View" (Azica)

They've been around since 1985. OK, so they're not the Kronos Quartet, but then who is? If you want to hear plausible jazz from a string quartet, these guys are it. 3 1/2 stars.


Kurt Elling, "The Questions" (Okeh)

Let's call it "Joe Williams Syndrome" named after the great blues singer with the Basie band. It's when a very good jazz singer gets so serious that he stops understanding what he does best and starts concentrating on what he does indifferently. In Elling's case, he sounds a bit lost. Not even songs as good as these seem to help. He's just not a guy who ought to be singing "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall." 2 1/2 stars.

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