Monday, December 29, 2008

Great Jazz from 2008

It is that time of year again. Everywhere you look there is a list of this or that. Sadly, it comes as little surprise, that with so little Jazz coverage, there are few lists of all the great Jazz recordings released in 2008. So, for those of you out there who may have been too busy earning a living to set your sights on America's indigenous art form, this list is for you.

Here are some of the great recordings from 2008

1. Cynthia Hilts - Second Story Breeze

Cynthia Hilts is a Force of Nature. When she wants to lull you with a sultry tune as in "Love For Sale," she will. When she wants to pummel you with her Neo Bop Monk like piano playing as in"Nun, Miffdemeanor-like" she will. It is all so easy for her on this brilliant recording where she is ably supported by veterans Ron McLure and Jeff Williams. What a joy! 2. Norma Winstone - Distances

I've been listening to Norma for more than 30 years?! From her days with Azimuth to her days with John Taylor and Tony Coe. Recordings with Jimmy Rowles, then some with Gary Burton and Fred Hersch. There have been long stretches where I was unable to remove her recording from the player. I have loved her ethereal and personal takes on so many great tunes. You will too. For this Grammy nominated recording Norma has surrounded herself with two of her favorite musicians: Glauco Venier on piano, and Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone. February 8 my money will be on Norma.

3. Danilo Perez with Orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman - Across The Crystal Sea

What a great recording! When I got this, a couple of months ago when it first came out, I almost cried when I played it. It was so like another favorite of mine, the Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra recording. Finally. Danilo's playing and Ogerman's arranging/conducting are superb. This is not to be missed. And if you like this you may also want to pick up The Gary McFarland Orchestra with Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans, Bill Evans: Symbiosis with Eddie Gomez, Claus Ogerman - Two Concertos, Gary McFarland's soundtrack to The Eye of the Devil, and Gary McFarland with Steve Kuhn on October Suite. Great music!

4. Bill Carrothers - Home Row

This was a very pleasant discovery for me this past year. Another great piano trio here with Bill accompanied by Gary Peacock and Bill Stewart. They're rollicking and turbulent one moment. Thoughtful and pensive the next. Great interplay on tunes written by Ornette ("When Will the Blues Leave"), Cole Porter ("My Heart Belongs to Daddy"), Kurt Weill ("Lost in the Stars"), and others. Fine work. 5. Ben Wolfe - No Strangers Here

Sophisticated sounds that swing. Something noir-ish performed by Ben and friends. From the Artist - "I chose to combine a jazz and string quartet to give myself a wide range of options as a composer yet to retain the feeling of a small ensemble. The music ranges from the lush title track, "No Strangers Here," to the more chamber music-sounding, "Rosy & Zero." The musicians are a wonderful blend of new acquaintances and guys I've played with for over twenty years." Ben takes great advantage of his opportunity here with a jazz ensemble and a string quartet.

6. Chick Corea & Gary Burton - The New Crystal Silence

This is a two CD set that celebrates the 35 year Anniversary of the Crystal Silence release. On CD 1 these two masters are accompanied by The Sydney Symphony Orchestra in "Crystal Silence,"" La Fiesta" and other tunes. CD 2 finds the two performing "Waltz for Debbie,"" No Mystery,"" Bud Powell" and others alone. These are two of the most generous and talented jazz players there are. How nice that they've been able to perform together for so many years. How lucky we are to be able to observe this.
7. Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz - January

This young Polish trio must've learned a lot over the years playing with Tomasz Stanko. Their first Trio recording from 2005 was amazing with their renditions of Wayne Shorter's "Plaza Real," and of Björk's "Hyperballad" among others. I could not wait for this second release and it doesn't dissapoint. Here's what the UK Guardian had to say about it:

"This is the young Polish piano trio that surfaced with that country s veteran jazz-trumpet star Tomasz Stanko a few years back, and made a big impact on their own account with their debut for ECM in 2005. Part of the group's secret is the patient ease with which they intertwine impressionistic music and powerful pulses, and here Wasilewski's strong originals once again give much of the set its backbone.... The album may not appear to be trying to hit you between the eyes, but in the long run it does that anyway." Need I say more?

8. Pat Metheny Trio - Day Trip

Here one of the finest guitarist/composers of my generation performs in a trio setting with bass player Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez. A recording that many reviewers have called Metheny's best trio recording to date. Having performed and recorded with so many great trios over the years, that is one neat trick indeed. For all these years, since I first saw a young Pat Metheny playing along side Mick Goodrick with The Gary Burton Quintet, or for that matter with Jaco and Bobby Moses, I've always eagerly welcomed Pat's recordings. I've never been dissapointed.

9. George Duke - Faces in Reflection

Finally MPS has issued a CD of this wonderful 1974 recording. I have been waiting a long time for this. Here we find pianist, keyboard player, vocalist, George Duke in a power trio setting accompanied by bass player John Heard and drummer Leon Ndugu Chanceler. You'll find fierce and driving trio playing one moment, a beautiful piano sonnet the next. George's vocals are great too. And if at any time you are reminded of Zappa, it is of course because George played with him for quite a while. Be sure to get a copy of this while it is still around.

10. Charlie Mariano - Helen 12 Trees

Here's another great MPS reissue released recently. One of the very talented early fusion groups featuring Charlie along with Jan Hammer, Jack Bruce, John Marshall, percussionist Nippy Noya, and polish jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert. John Kelman of All About Jazz summed it up well when he wrote "While fusion was taking a decided turn towards excess in North America, Mariano proved that it could be a more all-encompassing term, incorporating elements of South Indian music, classical impressionism and sophisticated jazz harmonies alongside potent, rock-based grooves and concise but muscular soloing." It is great to have these MPS recordings back!

On The Town in Paris

Global Around Town Senior Travel Correspondent Charles Douglas Wingate just saw an amazing production of Bernstein's, Robbins', Comden's and Green's first hit that catapulted them from obscurity to overnight sensations: ON THE TOWN. This English language (French supertitles) show at the Theatre Chatelet runs through Jan. 4, and if one is a musical theater historian, or just a Broadway Baby, this show is not to be missed. The show of course wisely uses the original Robbins choreography from Dec. 1944 (its Broadway debut date), and the cast is superb, with top notch singers, dancers and actors (mostly Aussies and Brits, with one "A-muruh-kan") in sets and costumes that creatively re-create Manhattan just before the War ended. This is one "American in Paris" NOT to miss, if one is in town. I saw the pretty good Broadway revival sometime within the last decade (showcasing the marvelous Lea DeLaria as the great distaff cabbie, Hildy) and this Parisian confection easily tops that last one. Maybe someone will get smart and just bring this new version to NYC, but to play it safe, hop over to the City of Lights.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Volume 3. New Years

Welcome back to Global Around Town. I'm hoping that your Holidays have been filled with joy and plenty of tasty treats. As we look toward the New Year, I'm sure there are many of you out there who will be examining what happened in 2008 before making your resolutions for 2009. This week, and to that end, those of you who are able, must run (do not walk!) to catch this superior exhibit that is perfectly conducive to that sort of introspection. For my third edition of Global Around Town we're heading to the UK for a rare and comprehensive exhibit of the works of an artist who has been associated with just that kind of spirituality and transcendence. We're off to London, and to The Tate Modern for their Rothko: The Late Series exhibit.

"Rothko's iconic paintings, composed of luminous, soft-edged rectangles saturated with colour, are among the most enduring and mysterious created by an artist in modern times," the Tate Modern said in a statement. "In the exhibition his paintings glow meditatively from the walls in deep dark reds, oranges, maroons, browns, blacks, and greys." This "must-see exhibition of the year" includes works from Rothko's: Four Darks in Red series, The Seagram Murals, Black Form Paintings, Brown and Gray works for paper, and his last series of Black on Gray paintings.

Everyone I know who has seen this brilliant exhibit has walked away from it in something of a trance. A very moving experience that forces you to consider the important things in life. Rothko once said "Pictures must be miraculous." His truly are.

Now if after all this contemplation you're feeling a bit weary, perhaps some sustenance is in order. While the choices in London are endless, after an exhibit like the Rothko, a similarly transcendent experience is in order don't you think? I'm thinking special. I'm thinking French. I'm thinking something classic from Michel Roux Jr. I say head on over to his Le Gavroche where you might have something like this:

Langoustines and Snails Glazed in a Light Hollandaise Sauce
Flavoured with Basque Pepper and Parsley

Hot Foie Gras and Crispy Pancake of Duck Flavoured with Cinnamon

Lambs Lettuce Salad with Mature Mimolette Cheese and Walnut Oil

Roast Suckling Pig with Crackling,
Peppered Sauce with Golden Raisins and Shallot Confit

Roasted Pineapple with Vanilla and Rum,
White Pepper Ice Cream

Cafe et Petit Fours

Having viewed all this amazing Art and enjoyed this spectacular Cuisine, I imagine some of you are ready for a stent and beddie bye. And then some of you may just be getting going. So for those of you with a little something left in your tank, I recommend a trip over to The Hippodrome. Built around a hundred years ago as a water circus with elephants, polar bears and sea lions, it has also over the years hosted Houdini, boxing matches and Judy Garland. Tonight you're in for a treat with a performance by La Clique "promising a raunchy mix of cabaret, burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety."" On any evening you might see:

Norway's Captain Frodo, whose eye-watering flexibility enables him to squeeze through tennis racquets;

Spain's Ursula Martinez whose show-stopping routines strip cabaret to its bare essentials;

Germany's David O’Mer, who has re-invented the pleasures of a nice soak in the tub;

Ukraine's Yulia Pikhtina, who claims to be one of the finest exponents of the ancient art of hula hooping;

The English Gents, performing their amazing feats of strength and skill;

London's own Miss Behave – a PVC-clad caricature with a fetish for swallowing pointy objects

The amazing puppets of Montreal's Cabaret Decadanse;

Mario, Queen of the Circus, a veteran of the New York alternative comedy scene who appears as a leatherbound reincarnation of Freddie Mercury."

Does anyone wonder why La Clique is an International sensation?! I don't think soooooo!

What a hilarious way to end our New Years outing in the great city of London. Happy New Years to you all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Best Christmas Music

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of attending a concert by The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir & The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. The program was as follows:
Arvo Part - Walfahrtslied
Erkki-Sven Tuur - Requiem
Arvo Part - Da Pacem
Arvo Part - L'Abbe Agathon
Antonio Vivaldi - Beatus vir, RV 597 for two choirs and two orchestras
Both the choir and orchestra were in fine tune. Tonu Kaljuste able to direct them with the greatest range of dynamics and expression.
For an encore we were treated to what I believe is the best Christmas Music for 2008:
May Jesus, Thee Be Praised
from Tonu Korvits's Kreek's Notebook
A stunning and uplifting end to one of the most important and beautiful concerts of the season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Volume 2. Christmas Week in New York

Reports are in and the snow is coming down in New York City. Because of this and because of the infinite number of things to do there, I've decided to feature the Big Apple for my Christmas Week edition of Global Around Town. I think if I were visiting right now I'd don my mucklucks and make time for a warm stroll by all those beautiful decorations with that someone special . Down the avenue, arm in arm, amidst all that color, I know we'd be tempted indoors by a number of things.

A performance of Massenet's Thais at The Met featuring Thomas Hampson and a svelte Christian Lacoroix attired Renee Fleming would exert a strong pull. Both are fine artists, and the reviews have all been very good, for this opera that has not been performed here in 30 years.

Before or after the opera we might want to fortify ourselves with a little nibble. What then could be nicer, amidst all the festivities, than some blini with caviar? With the snow coming down all around you, you just might want to make your way to The Russian Tea Room. Humming "Laura's Theme," you can pretend you're Dr Zhivago, a Czar or an Oligarch. If you feel like staying for dinner there's also Poached Maine Lobster, plates of Herring, Apple and Beet Salad, and Black Cod pan seared with a Vanilla Parsnip puree.

Another restaurant that always seems to take superior care of their patrons is Red Cat. There, on this wintry eve, you just might dine on something like this, if you're lucky:

Proscuitto Wrapped Trumpet Royales
sauteed savoy, tomato butter

Calves Liver Au Poivre
bacon, swiss chard pie, melted tomato

Plum Clafouti
mascarpone cream, dry sherry plum sauce

And if all this seems a bit too fancy schmancy, you can always take your haimish ponem on down to Katz's, for a pastrami sandwich piled high to the sky! While you're at it, bring me a babka!

Obviously there are many diversions for you in this magnificent city. For music in a more modern vain visit the ever hip (Le) Poisson Rouge.

The museums are chock full of exhibits worthy of your attention. At MoMA you'll have to decide between Marlene Dumas, Joan Miro, and Van Gogh! Over at the Whitney you can view Alexander Calder - The Paris Years - 1926-1933.

For those of you who can't make it to NYC for this Christmas Week, you still can pretend you're at The Met by listening to this recent recording by Renee Fleming. It includes "Ah! Je suis seule, seule enfin" from Act. 2 of Thais, as well as Strauss' Four Last Songs, and more.

Me, I'll be cuddled up in my Womb Chair with a warm cup of Sri Lankan Ratnapura. Amidst the warmth and the glow of Chopin Nocturnes gently burnished by Ivan Moravec.

A Gift

I'm wondering how many of you saw this wonderful film, or were even aware of it.
I do not remember seeing it here. Not even in our artier venues.
A Man Named Pearl, which I watched on DVD last night, is the amazing story of a man who came from very humble origins. A man who becomes a brilliant sculptural topiary artist (like an Edward Scissorhands), as well as an important leader in his community.
This tale of Art, growth, compassion, and hope should be seen by all.
Kudos to: directors - Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson,
composer - Fred Story
and cinematographer - J. Steven Anderson
A great film.
A breath of fresh air.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Rainy day, rain all day..."

I've just come in from the rain and the cold, where the sound of the windshield wipers and the pitter patter on the convertible top was quietly comforting. At times like this I am often reminded of composer/pianist Andrew Hill and his playing with Bobby Hutcherson, on a tune called Alfred, from the Judgement recording.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 Holiday Gift Guide

With the Holidays upon us, and only a few shopping days left, here are a few of my favorite gift selections. A handmade Fornisetti Backgammon Board
Family Portrait from Jaime Hayon's porcelain fantasy collection for Lladro The Berti Buffalo Horn Love Knife gives the groom courage and the bride faithfulness , or else

The very hip Leaf Lamp from Herman Miller uses LEDs with a 60,000 hour lifespan

Leo Griffen has designed this 24 carat gold and enamel spoon for the 2008 Georg Jensen Collection

It's a revolver, no it's a Justin Parker paperweight
Prrrrrrrrrrrrfect... Arca's Italian Bull's Horn Pet Bowl for kitty
Brian Mcintyre's faux leather and cotton Loop Dog House
Aldo Rossi's La Conica Espresso Maker

Mono's Zeug Flatware

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tribute to Joe Farrell who would've been 71 today.

Many, many years ago... or once upon a time if you prefer, I was a wee lad. And I ventured forth to visit my dear brother Aire in Jackson Hole Wyoming. That lovely summer, in this unlikely place I stumbled upon this wonderful record with it's colorful jacket. When I played it I was absolutely taken with it. The beauty, the impressions that came from "Song of Wind" and "Molten Glass." The hip late night groove of "Follow Your Heart." Hearing this I was forever changed. I'd grown up, to the age of about 12 at this point, having been turned on to jazz by my Uncle Alan who used to hang out at Birdland and other New York City haunts. He'd played a lot of great stuff for me when I was little. But this Joe Farrell Quartet recording propelled me even further into the world of music. I have become more and more involved with music ever since, and this recording was of the greatest importance. I love this recording. I listened to it the other day as I took a stroll out in the rather heavy rain. It hasn't changed. It is still one of my favorite things. I recommend it to all. Joe Farrell and these Miles Davis graduates: Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette and John McLaughlin created something very special here.

Joe Farrell passed away January 6, 1986 at 48 years young. He recorded many fine discs and performed as a sideman on many others. In addition to The Joe Farrell Quartet album reviewed above, I am awfully fond of Outback, and Moon Germs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Volume 1 - 12/14/2008 - 12/20/2008 -

Paris - Vienna - Tokyo -

By any chance are you heading to the City of Lights this week? If so are you in luck! If you are smart you will head over to Salle Pleyel for the premier of a Violin Concerto written by a brilliant young composer. Wednesday night at 8:00 Finnish maverick Esa Pekka Salonen will be leading violinist Janine Jansen and the Orchestre de Paris in this new work by Richard Dubugnon. Who is Monsieur Dubugnon you may ask? My answer in short... a composer who you'll want to get to know and whose works you will really enjoy hearing. Le Figaro called this Swiss-French composer the son of Ravel and Prokofiev. Listening to him the other day his music seemed like the natural continuation of the works of Ravel, Debussy, Faure, etc... Dubugnon is also a Double Bass virtuouso who writes for many different ensembles from orchestra to solo piano to chamber pieces. He has studied in all the right places and is being championed by all the right people. I cannot tell you how much I wish I could be there for this important musical event! In 2004 his Arcanes Symphonique (Symphonic Tarot Cards) was performed in Dallas to fine reviews. Scott Cantrel of The Dallas Morning News wrote "Music harkens back to Debussy." "This score grows audibly out of the brightly colored orchestra traditions of Debussy and Ravel, with updated influences from some newer French composers. This unashamedly sensuous music , often delicately textured and tinted, it's structures related to the five tarot cards illustrated." Monsieur Dubugnon has recorded a number of works in recent years and Arcanes Symphonique was just released in November. Dubugnon's Piano Quartet, his homage to Faure, can be found on a fine Naxos recording. And I for one cannot wait for releases of his works for Voice and Orchestra, and Voice and Piano. This young composer, born in 1968, has already created quite an ouevre of things all French no less. Quelle plaisir.

And there's more?! Why yes! After intermission Salonen will lead a very large L'Orchestre in the original 1880's version of Mahler's cantata Das Klagende Lied (Song of Lamentation) . Revisions in the years that followed reduced the number of harp players, vocal soloists, and removed an off stage orchestra. It will be a thrill to see what Salonen does with this. It should prove to be a spectacular evening all around. The concert will be repeated Thursday.

Salle Pleyel is located at: 252, rue du faubourg Saint-Honore, 75008 Paris.
Phone number: +33 (0) 1 42 56 13 13

For a quick bite head into their restaurant for a Cafe Salle Pleyel Burger. Made with coriander, sun dried tomatoes, capers, cornichons, and tarragon, and topped with a ribbon or two of parmesan, this is fine art as well.

If you have a bit more time to dine, hop in a taxi and zip on down to Le Timbre, near the Luxembourg Gardens, to see how well a chap from Manchester can do in this culinary mecca। Food authority Patricia Wells was greeted with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc and "adored the ham and lentil salad, a warm curried beet soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, and plump seared and roasted pigeon." I had a delicious and not trop chere dinner there as well. Call in advance.

Le Timbre is located at: 3 Rue Sainte Beuve, Paris 6
Phone number: 01 45 49 10 40

Up next, a cozy fete on a wintry day, in a city that has been the birthplace of so much great Art and Thought. We're off to Vienna, a city I have enjoyed visiting a number of times this time of year, to celebrate what would have been the 80th birthday on December 15 of the world famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. While Erik Satie owned and sported seven identical grey velvet suits, Hundertwasser who follows in the tradition of Schiele and Klimt, traveled the world in his black boat with a black cat and a black bird. His paintings, prints, buildings, and urban designs are however chock full of color. Bright reds, greens, yellows, and swirls of gold etc... frequently filling his palette. The last time I was in Vienna the city was blanketed with snow, and there I was standing amidst all Hundertwasser's beauty in the KunstHaus Wien, the building that he designed to house his collection. It was a lovely experience, and this is where I'd return to honor this great man, who is "buried in harmony with nature on his land in New Zealand, in the Garden of the Happy Deads, under a tulip tree." For this special occassion KunstHaus Wien is presenting "The Unknown Hundertwasser," a show that includes many rare works from private collections that are not often shown. How lucky to be able to view this! Being there for Hundertwasser's birthday is a must for anyone in, around or heading to Vienna. My visits to this wonderful place have always been terribly special.

KunstHaus Wien is located at: Unterre Weissgerberstrasse 13 Vienna A-1030
Phonenumber: +43 (0)1 712 0495

You will no doubt want to pick up goodies of Hundertwasser's while you are there. The prints, books, and even the scarves are great. I am also quite fond of Hundertwasser stamps and a commemorative stamp has been produced.

If you can't find the stamps in the shop you may want to try:
If after all this Art , your appetite has grown, no need to worry. Vienna is filled with many wonderful places to eat. My first stop for a lovely dinner would be Steirereck. The food, wine, (and oh yes the) cheese cart, and ambience there spectacular. Here's a sample menu I know I'd like:

Pan Fried Foie Gras with Cox-Orange, Apple, and Wild Marjoram

Crayfish with Parsnip - Custard Strudel & Limes

Pheasant with Chervil Roots Charlotte, Pear and Cornel Cherries

Organic Camembert
from Styria with Quinces, Black Currant, Candida & Smoked Sage

Warm Trinitario Chocolate
with Pinneapple-Pericon Sorbet & Coconut Macaroons

Partagas D4, Cuba
with Oban 14 year Highland Single Malt Whiskey

Location: Steirereck in the Stadtpark A-1030 Vienna
Telephone: +43 (1) 713 31 68

For a cozy, old world meal, (can you spell Schnitzel?) in a hundreds year old inn, do not miss: Griechenbeisl - Fleischmarkt 11
Telephone: 533 19 77

And lastly, when in Vienna you must visit the first Konditerai which was founded in 1786. Demel has the most beautiful pastries, candies (a Hundertwasser Collection) and cafe fare. I can smell the coffee and almost taste the schlag.
Location: Kohlmarkt 14 in front of the Hofburg Palace

My last entry, for this inaugural edition of Global Around Town, takes us to the Land of the Rising Sun. To Tokyo, a city I am dying to explore. Design savy travelers and residents alike will not want to miss this 30 year retrospective of a man who worked as a truck driver and then a Boxer, before becoming a self taught architect.

Pritzker award winning architect Tadeo Ando is known for his caste in place concrete buildings that exist in harmony in their settings and take advantage of the settings natural light. I love his works and wish I could be there for this important show. I hope you can make it to:

Tadeo Ando "Challenges: Faithful to the Basis."
Location: Gallerie Ma
TOTO Nogizaka bldg. 3F
1-24-3 Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku
Tokyo, 107-0062 JAPAN
Telephone: 81-3-3402-1010


Good day. I'm David Engel. And welcome to Global Around Town where each week I'll be bringing you previews of some of the most exciting events in the worlds of Art/ Music/Literature/ Design/Architecture/Film and Cuisine.