Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso ("The Red Priest") because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons..
Cuban-born pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa is back in his native land for his latest album, New Day. On most of the album’s ten tracks, all original compositions, he works with his brother Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa on drums and longtime colleague Gaston Joya on double bass. A couple of tracks add the trumpet of Mayquel Gonzalez. For the first time, it seems, Lopez-Nussa also plays the Fender Rhodes on a few compositions.
This delightful "dramma eroicomico" ("heroic-comic drama"–-a made-up phrase brimming with irony) tells the story of the noble knight Orlando, who goes mad being torn between duty and love, his love, Angelica, who actually wants Medoro, and Alcina, an evil sorceress out to get Orlando, and turns it into a type of farce, with great results. There is some lovely music, mostly for Angelica and Medoro, but most of it is fun and light, with characters whistling, trying to impress people with how well they sing, etc. The scoring wittily underlines their foibles. Even for those who normally don't like comic opera, this sophisticated bauble is so impressively performed that it's irresistible… –Robert Levine
Chucho Valdes is easily the living king of Cuban jazz piano. This anthology, issued by the premier Bele Bele Jazz Club label from Spain, is an overview of the roots of the pianist's development as both an interpreter of classic Cuban material and as an improviser. The first 12 tracks on the set, recorded in 1970, borrow heavily from the "feelings" movement of Cuban dancehall music from the late '40s and early '50s, with numerous compositions by Jose Mendez and Cesar Portillo de la Luz. There are also trademark Valdes originals such as his own "Preludio No. 1," based on Debussy's. Other tracks here, from 1982, borrow from the later dancehall traditions and lineages such as the "Evocations" series written by Jesus Valdez including one for Josh White! The first 12 cuts features Valdes with a stellar rhythm section that included bassist Orlando Lopez (Cachaito) and drummer Enrique Pla, and the last eight are solo.
Moving to Capitol/EMI after a one-off record at Island/Universal, Jennifer Lopez seizes the opportunity of a new label to jump-start her career with A.K.A. It isn't quite a complete reboot, however. Its executive producer is RedOne, who worked on 2011's Love?, but this record attempts to push J-Lo further into modern dance, by having her duet with T.I., Pitbull, and Rick Ross, not to mention Iggy Azalea, who was the hottest rapper in the U.S. upon the June release of A.K.A. Iggy's showcase arrives on "Acting Like That," one of several tracks produced by Leon Youngblood, and his contributions – which also include the title track and "So Good" – are the moments on the record that get it right, balancing the heavy club throb with pop hooks that rely on feel as much as Lopez's vocals…