Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

 

March 12, 2010

 

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! Nelson Freire – Chopin: The Nocturnes (classical)

 

It’s the 200th birthday of arguably the greatest composer for piano the world has known, and there are a slew of concerts, news features, and recordings to commemorate the event.  This album’s my pick for the casual listener looking to join the festivities.  The Nocturnes are some of Chopin’s most intimate work, quintessentially romantic in spirit and mood, with rolling waves in the left hand and liquid melodies in the right.  Freire conveys the profound emotion of the works without overstatement, enveloping you in serenity.

 

Listen to Nelson Freire “Chopin: Nocturne 17 in B

 

! The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder – San Patricio (world)

 

The idea to mix Irish and Mexican musical styles could only come from a musical mastermind such as Ry Cooder.  The combination is seamless, with both cultures employing variations of harps, guitars, flutes, and fiddles.  It’s a boisterous album of reels and corridos, one that should carry you through the drinking season with St. Patty’s and Cinco de Mayo on the horizon.

 

Listen to The Chieftains with Los Cenzontles “El Chivo

 

! Jimi HendrixValleys of Neptune (rock)

 

When was the last time you really listened to Jimi Hendrix?  Valleys of Neptune is a chance to hear his signature spaceman’s blues as if for the first time.  While the sounds evoke another generation, the soulful drive behind it is still pure genius.  Don’t get caught in scrutinizing how this set compares to his other releases; when an artist has such a narrow recorded legacy to begin with, any meaningful addition is a real opportunity.

 

Listen to Jimi Hendrix “Valleys of Neptune

 

! Junior Mance – Out South (jazz)

 

Mance is one of the elders of the jazz scene, a key player in the soul-jazz style of the 1950’s known as hard bop.  Out South is a hard bop revival, an easy and satisfying listen with Mance’s piano shining in the midst of a double-saxophone quintet.  Dig it.

 

Listen to Junior Mance “Dapper Dan

 

 

* The Besnard Lakes – Heart As Wide As the World (new age)

 

The Besnard Lakes pile layers of sound into an oozing lasagna.  Electric guitars swimming in reverb, electronic drones, and saturated vocals, with sweet melodic lines baked in.

 

Listen to The Besnard LakesChicago Train

 

* Josh Rouse – El Turista (world)

 

“El Turista” translates as “The Tourist,” though Rouse is more akin to the travel writer – someone who manages to give penetrating insights into another land and culture even in a short visit.  Rouse’s lavishly orchestrated songs draw on Bossa Nova, samba, and Paul Simon.  “Soy un artista mundial, y no digo mas cha cha! (I am an artist of the world, and I have nothing more to say, cha cha!)”

 

Listen to Josh Rouse “Mesie Julian

 

Also good this week: Frightened Rabbit, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kidz in the Hall

 

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Great read!

Great read!