NPR: Tiny Desk's Bob Boilen writes......Every January, I attend globalFEST at a New York City nightclub and see some of the most fantastic music I'll experience all year. Now, given the pandemic's challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST moved the 2021 edition from the nightclub to your screen of choice and shared the festival with the world. We called it Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. We presented 16 artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo.
Recording from her apartment in Brooklyn, award-winning Argentine vocalist and songwriter Sofia Rei provides a concert that blends South American folk traditions with experimental pop and electronic music. That mix of tradition and modernity extends to her surroundings, which features traditional iconography, robotic 'saints,' exuberant plants and looping pedals. This performance took place during the opening night of our 2021 festival. --globalFEST
"Un Mismo Cielo" (The Same Sky)
"Negro Sobre Blanco" (Black On White)
"Escarabajo Digital" (Digital Beetle)
Sofia Rei: vocals, charango, electronics
JC Maillard: guitar, bass, programming, background vocals
Leo Genovese: keys
Jorge Glem: cuatro
Ana Carmela Rodriguez Contramaestre: background vocals, percussion
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The New York Times, Jon Pareles writes.... With 16 bands over four nights, the festival expanded its reach at a time when live music with audiences is in short supply.
Minyo Crusaders set an old Japanese song, from a tradition called minyo, to a Nigerian Afrobeat groove. DakhaBrakha, from Ukraine, roved from Eastern European drones and yipping vocals to something like girl-group rock. Aditya Prakash, from Los Angeles, sang a joyful Hindu devotional over upbeat jazz from his ensemble, sharing its melody with a trombone. Rachele Andrioli, from southern Italy, sang a fierce tarantella accompanying herself with a tambourine and electronic loops of a jaw harp and her voice. Hit La Rosa, from Peru, topped the clip-clop beat of cumbia with surreal lyrics, surf-reverbed guitar solos and psychedelic swoops and echoes.
They were all part of the 18th annual Globalfest, the world-music showcase that moved online this year as a partnership with NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series, which will preserve the performances online. Previous Globalfests were one-night live showcases in New York City for a dozen bands on club stages. But for this pandemic year, musicians recorded themselves performing live at home: living rooms, studios, a record-company office, a backyard barbecue. Angélique Kidjo, the singer from Benin who appeared at the first Globalfest, played virtual host in eye-popping outfits; musicians made sure to have at least one globe on camera. The sets were short, just two or three songs each. But Globalfest's potential audience has been hugely multiplied.
While necessity forced Globalfest online, networking has long been built into its music. Many musicians who cherish local and traditional styles have decided that the way to ensure their survival is through adaptation and hybridization, retaining the essence while modernizing the delivery system. For musicians, fusion is also fun: a chance to learn new skills, a way to discover creative connections. There are commonalities in the ways voices can croon or bite or break, in mechanisms like repetition or call-and-response, in wanting people to dance. Modernization doesn't have to mean homogenization.
There were traditionalists at Globalfest. Dedicated Men of Zion, a multigenerational band of family members, sang hard-driving gospel standards like "Can't Turn Me Around," rasping and soaring into falsetto, from a backyard in North Carolina with a smoking barbecue grill. Edwin Perez led a 10-piece band - mostly Cuban musicians - updating a New York style that flourished in the 1970s and 1980s: salsa dura, propulsive and danceable with jabbing horns, insistent percussion and socially conscious lyrics. (One song was "No Puedo Respirar" - "I Can't Breathe.")
But tradition often came with a twist. Nora Brown adeptly played and sang Appalachian banjo songs from Kentucky, passed down through personal contact with elder generations, even though she's a 15-year-old from Brooklyn, where she performed in a tunnel under Crown Heights with a train rumbling overhead. Rokia Traoré, from Mali, has an extensive catalog of her own songs, but her set reached back to a tradition of epic song: centuries-old historical praise of generals who built the West African Mande empire - "Tiramakan" and "Fakoly." She sang over mesmerizing vamps, plucked and plinked on ngoni (lute) and balafon (xylophone), progressing from delicacy to vehemence, from gently melodic phrases to rapid-fire declamation, putting her virtuosity in service to the lore she conveyed.
Musicians securely grounded in their own cultures also felt free to experiment with others. Martha Redbone - born in Kentucky with Cherokee, Choctaw and African-American ancestors - punctuated bluesy, compassionate soul songs with Native American rattles and percussive syllables. Elisapie sang in her Native American language, Inuktitut, as she led her Canadian rock band in volatile songs that built from folky picking to full-scale stomps. Emel, a Tunisian singer influenced by the protest music of Joan Baez, sang two songs from a living room in Paris. They were introspective, brooding, keening crescendos: "Holm" ("A Dream"), which envisioned a "bitter reality that destroys everything we build," and, in English, "Everywhere We Looked Was Burning."
Labess, a Canadian band led by an Algerian singer, had musicians performing remotely from France and Colombia; its set roved from Arabic-flavored songs to, for its finale, "La Vida Es Un Carnaval," a kind of flamenco-samba-chanson amalgam with French lyrics and a button-accordion solo. Natu Camara, a singer from Guinea now based in New York, gave her West African pop a tinge of American funk as she offered determinedly uplifting messages.
And Sofia Rei, an Argentine singer now based in New York, conjured a wildly eclectic, near hallucinatory international mix from her living room with her band: Andean, Asian, jazz, funk, electronics. True to Globalfest's boundary-scrambling mission, she sang about living under "Un Mismo Cielo": "The Same Sky."
New Classical Tracks, Julie Amacher writes....Ofra Harnoy returns to the stage with her new album - On The Rock (Analekta)
"We came here for a vacation, and it was within days that we decided to start looking for a house here and we found the perfect house, which is on a lake. I can look out and see eagles flying across the lake. Every day the weather's so different that it's like watching an ever-changing painting."
That beautiful scene in the province of Newfoundland is what inspired Ofra Harnoy's 44th recording, On the Rock. It's her second recording with her husband, multi-instrumentalist and arranger, Mike Herriott.
"Well, 'The Rock' is kind of a slang or nickname for the province of Newfoundland. My husband and I actually moved here about two years ago and we came up with a list of music that we thought could be beautifully arranged to suit the cello.
"Our hope with the album was to be true and respectful to the Newfoundland tradition but also share my love of this music through the voice of the cello. So, the music had to be suitable for that. I think we came up with a beautiful collection of songs that really tell a story. I think it's a universal story for any seaside or oceanside community. It has the love, the longing, the ballad, the pub culture, and the fun."
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Deutsche Grammophon releases Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's performances of the complete Charles Ives symphony cycle. Called "a revelation" by the Los Angeles Times, the rarely heard symphony cycle was recorded in early 2020 as part of the LA Phil's Dvořák and Ives festival.
THE CLASSIC REVIEW's David A. McConnell writes.....Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and DG deserve our warmest thanks for releasing new recordings of these endlessly fascinating works. The label "Complete Symphonies" is misleading however, since the "New England Holidays" Symphony is not included. Given the excellence of these performances, I hope Dudamel and Los Angeles turn their attention to that work in the future. Nevertheless, it is fantastic that one of America's finest orchestras has recorded this repertoire.
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FanFare's Henry Fogel writes.....Gregoriadou is a Greek guitarist who draws a remarkably wide range of color from her guitar. The calm beauty of the third movement of the Bach violin sonata, simply marked Andante, is followed by a brilliantly executed final Allegro that manages to wed crisp articulation with lyrical flow.
Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, written for Julian Bream, is given a superb reading. The music is a set of variations that appear before the Dowland theme itself emerges at the end. Britten said that the music contained "disturbing images," though he never specified what they were. This is unsettled music that seems to stop and start, building tension in its halting, quiet way. Release, at least to a degree, is found at the end with Dowland's original theme. Gregoriadou's performance emphasizes the work's underlying tension without overplaying it.
Sofia Gubaidulina's Serenade was composed in 1960 when the composer was 29, and is a gentler and more introspective work than we are used to from her. At three minutes, it is also very brief. Not unlike the Britten, the music is tonally ambiguous until resolving in what Gregoriadou, in her excellent notes, calls "a therapeutic G major chord."
Jacques Hétu was a Canadian composer (1938–2010) who wrote his Suite pour guitare in 1986. It is predominantly a lyrical work, much of it at soft dynamics. The third movement, "Ballade," is marked by an underlying darkness that is relieved in the following "Rêverie." After these two quiet movements the work ends with a brilliant finale, in the style of a moto perpetuo.
What is special about this recording is Gregoriadou's focus on timbre. Her technique is exceptional, but it is always at the service of creating a sound world with a wide spectrum. Her dynamic shading in the last movement of the Hétu is astonishing, and it is so effortlessly achieved that you don't think about technique as you listen. I don't think of Gregoriadou as a guitarist. I think of her as a musician who happens to play the guitar. This is a very beautiful guitar recital, with recorded sound that makes it seem as if you are in the room with Gregoriadou, and at just the right distance for the best perspective.
HAPPY's Rian Howlett writes.....2020 was an incredible year for gaming for a few reasons. A lot of free time went around the place, imminent next-gen releases pushed everyone into a gaming frenzy, and Keanu Reeves called another man, and all of us, breathtaking. And just like the titles they represent, the video game soundtracks released in 2020 were top notch.
We trawled back through the year that was to single out who we thought brought true heat to the musical table. For the most part, these OSTs are albums you can listen to in their own right, some of them however just complemented the game so perfectly that now it's hard to think of one without the other.
From electrically charged thrash metal to spine-tingling orchestral scores, HAPPY picks the 10 best video game soundtracks of 2020. On the list is Gustavo Santaolalla - The Last Of Us Part 2.
Gustavo Santaolalla has stood as the invisible third piece of the Joel and Ellie puzzle for as long as we've known them. The guitar in the original TLOU was a sparse, exquisite affair. Barely noticeable builds, and almost entirely acoustic. It was haunting and instantly recognisable.
With all of the weapons of the contemporary music producer at his arsenal, he brought a much bigger world for our ears to play in. While absolutely different to the original, there wasn't anything lost through the shift in the music from part one to two. The Last Of Us Part 2's soundtrack is a gorgeous, expansive experience that complemented the jump from adolescence to adulthood that Ellie makes between the games.
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98.7WFMT: Chicago, Lisa Flynn writes.....There have been many musical dynasties throughout history – think of the Bach and Strauss families. Today, we have a new dynasty in the making with the extraordinary talents of England's Kanneh-Masons – seven brothers and sisters, all of whom play either violin, piano, or cello. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the siblings with the opportunity to join together at home for the first time in over five years, as they've performed and shared their music with the world via livestreams.
In 2020, the Kanneh-Masons also released their first-ever family album, Carnival, joined by several instrumentalist friends for Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals. Michael Morpurgo wrote delightful new poems for the beloved work, read by the author and actress Olivia Colman. (Photo: Stuart McIntyre)
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"The London-based trio The Comet Is Coming-made up of the saxophonist King Shabaka, the percussionist Betamax, and the keyboardist Danalogue-thrusts empyrean jazz into an apocalyptic future, where raucous psych rock and danceable electro-grooves ride lush tenor lines to outer space.
Sony Music Masterworks today announces the release of THE PROM (MUSIC FROM THE NETFLIX FILM), an album of music from the forthcoming Netflix film directed by Ryan Murphy and based on the hit Broadway musical from Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, and Matthew Sklar.
The fantastic 'Schneller!' has four trumpets interweaving, performed by the magical Kenny Rampton and then the sublime 'Waiting Here For You' features more outstanding musicians from around the world. Hear Sarah tell the story of those recordings and more.
The magic of Christmas! Joy is in the air, everybody's in good cheer and you can hear carols everywhere. The outside is covered in snow, but it is warm by the fireside. Romance is at your heart, while you sit with your loved-ones under the Christmas tree. These are images that Sarah McKenzie creates in this original composition called ‘You, Me & the Christmas Tree'. It captures the spirit of Christmas. It's a song about love and being together. Sarah admits that only when she moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music did she grasp the full meaning of those legendary jazzy Christmas songs. In her home country of Australia she has never experienced a ‘White Christmas', so "a lot of those iconic songs only really started to make sense to me once I experienced winter on the East-coast of the United States with tons of snow and cold temperatures, but also saw the lit-up Christmas trees and Christmas markets, the smell of mulled wine and ‘chestnuts roasted on an open fire'. I instantly fell in love with that season of the year and always wanted to put my feelings in a song."
Sarah chose to record ‘You, Me & the Christmas Tree' with an A-lister cast of Jazz' finest: John Clayton on double bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums, Warren Wolf on vibes and Randy Napoleon on guitar. And they went to legendary Capitol Studios in Los Angeles for this recording, the studio in which a lot of famous Christmas albums have been recorded (Frank Sinatra's ‘A Jolly Christmas', ‘Christmas Carousel' by Peggy Lee, Diana Krall's ‘Christmas Songs'), but also the building on which the famous Christmas tree is lit up every year since 1958. According to Los Angeles Magazine that Christmas tree was the first of its kind, designed by Ollsen Lighting and it featured 4,373 bulbs at 25 watts each.
I was very lucky that during lockdown the Diablo Regional Arts Association in Walnut Creek, CA commissioned me to create a 60-minute video extravaganza with the theme MUSIC CONNECTS OUR WORLD. My idea was to create ten cross-genre video clips that would include musicians from all corners of the world and put the videos together with announcements so they become like a concert. The stylistic reach was from Bossa Nova to Tango, from Bebop to Choral Music. And there was this one song in my drawer that sounded a bit like pop music, but I did not really know what to do with it. My Australian producer Chong Lim, who I happened to speak to during that time, just had his tour as keyboarder for David Foster cancelled and he recommended that I speak to the drummer of that tour, John JR Robinson. John was all up for it and recorded the drums for the track and recommended that I speak to Michael Thompson for guitars. Michael then added the guitars and recommended that I ask Jon Gilutin to add Hammond B3. It was amazing! All these legends, who had worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion suddenly recorded a song of mine and I was playing and singing alongside them. I very much hope that you'll like it! Here is WAITING HERE FOR YOU.
When the corona virus hit in early March Sarah McKenzie was just on tour in France and all her shows got cancelled. At the same time the US government implemented a travel ban for everyone who was travelling from the Schengen territory so Sarah was unable to return to her home in Los Angeles immediately. ?In order not to get stuck during lockdown in a big city I rented an old school house in the very South of England, in Hastings at the English Channel coast. It was a very romantic place from the 17th century with vines on the outside and a large garden with roses and lots of other flowers and old, very stylish furniture on the inside and an old piano that I would play every day. We had planned to stay for two weeks, in the end it was 3 1/2 months. I found a small but well equipped recording studio in Hastings, that had an engineer who had recorded a lot of jazz, and a Yamaha baby grand piano. Perfect conditions to start working 24/7. The song SCHNELLER! was inspired by drives on the German highway. It is called Autobahn and it is one of the very few places in the world where there is no speed limit. For someone not used to this it is quite a frightening experience to travel at 130 mph. So once I had picked my finger nails out of the dashboard I thought this experience needs a song. I then had to find the right musicians for it. With Geoff Gascoyne (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums) I have a long lasting working relationship already, but who could play those trumpets? I was very lucky to then come across Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's Kenny Rampton, who is a fantastic trumpet player and who put in the extra miles that it needed to make this song special. I hope you'll like it.'
After the great success of Sarah McKenzie's 2017 disc, Paris in the Rain(Impulse! Records), the 31-year-old pianist, singer, and composer returns with the poignant, Secrets of My Heart, reuniting with noted Australian composer, arranger, and events music director, Chong Lim, who produced her first two discs – Don't Tempt Me and Close Your Eyes. Recorded in New York City, Secrets of My Heart exudes cosmopolitan flair with its lineup that includes French bassist Pierre Boussaguet and Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Bocattoalongside guitarist Dan Wilson, drummer Donald Edwards, vibraphonist Warren Wolf,tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts, and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber(all of whom based in the United States).
After enchanting jazz fans with her 2015 Impulse! Records debut, We Could Be Lovers, Sarah McKenzie returns with the sensational follow-up, Paris in the Rain. Like before, the 28-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-born singer, pianist, composer and arranger teams with the acclaimed Brian Bacchus – who has produced classics for such stars as Norah Jones, Lizz Wright, and Gregory Porter – to deliver a gripping program of jazz classics and originals – all of which present McKenzie's incredible musicality in glamorous glory.
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