A great vote of thanks is due Nonesuch for making these performances available. This represents the SLSO’s first appearance on this label since the short-lived Saint Louis Symphony Commissions series in the mid 1980s. The engineering of this disc is first-rate, catching the warm ambience of Powell Symphony Hall along with plenty of detail. The orchestra surmounts the considerable technical challenges of the works with élan, matching the excellent Netherlands Philharmonic in the DVD recording of the opera for expressiveness and surpassing them in precision. The only complaint is the short playing time. That criticism aside, this release is warmly recommended.
While Bill Frisell has released plenty of albums under his own name, this is his first true solo album – the first on which he plays all of the instruments himself. These include electric and acoustic guitar, six-string banjo, and bass, as well as the occasional looped sample. To call the music he creates on this album "introspective" would be something of an understatement. This won't come as a complete surprise to his fans – there has always been a gentle and meditative quality to his music, and even when he's gotten wild with his trio or with downtown pals like John Zorn or Vernon Reid, those moments of abrasive abandon have always seemed like detours from his more natural, but no less inventive and interesting, sweetness and good humor.
Singer/songwriter and visual artist Devendra Banhart emerged in the early 2000s and was soon considered an icon of the freak folk movement. In the years that followed, he expanded and experimented with his sound, perhaps hitting peak meandering with 2007's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Still touching on multiple genres, 2013's Mala offered a more cohesive set. With Ape in Pink Marble, Banhart continues to reel in diversions and delivers his most understated album in over a decade. The palette is playful but restrained, with acoustic guitar, synths, mallet percussion, and Mellotron among its tools.
Fred Hersch grew up loving the show tunes of Rodgers & Hammerstein, so he took advantage of the opportunity to pay tribute to the songwriters. This solo piano set mixes together some standards (most notably "It Might As Well Be Spring" and "The Surrey with the Fringe On Top") with some lesser-known but worthwhile tunes, including "Loneliness of Evening" and "I Have Dreamed." Hersch's harmonically advanced yet melodic style transforms even the most unlikely tunes into high-quality jazz.
Steve Reich has a remarkable arrangement for a composer in that he is an exclusive artist for Nonesuch and has been so for more than two decades. Back in 1996, when Reich celebrated his 60th birthday, Nonesuch issued a 10-CD box set of "everything" – all of the works in the Warner Classics vaults that he had recorded, including some new at the time, such as Steve Reich: Works 1965-1995. With Reich's 70th birthday afoot, the earlier set still in print and Nonesuch belonging to a classical music division that is operating on one lung, it has decided on a more modest approach to the newer observance with Steve Reich: Phases – A Nonesuch Retrospective, a collection consisting of five discs.
Nearness finds acclaimed jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau teaming up for a set of loose yet heartfelt duo performances. Collaborators since they first began playing together in Redman's quartet in the early '90s, Mehldau and Redman have forged their own distinct solo careers. While they have continued to work together in various settings, the duo put a spotlight on their creative friendship with their 2011 tour. Nearness features live performances captured during the European leg of that tour, including tapings in Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Norway.
It's not at all surprising that Laurie Anderson would make a film dealing with grief and loss, especially as one of her first major projects after the death of her husband Lou Reed. But instead of offering a tribute to her late spouse, Anderson chose to make a film that dealt with another departed loved one: her dog. Her 2015 film, Heart of a Dog, is loosely centered around her experiences with her dog Lolabelle, a rat terrier who was adopted by the artist after being given up by a family going through a divorce.
Alpha Mike Foxtrot, is a 4-CD box-set of rare studio and live recordings collected from Wilco's extensive archives spanning the acclaimed Chicago band's 20-year career. Rolling Stone calls Alpha Mike Foxtrot "a comprehensive document of a great band with endless secrets to reveal" and the Austin Chronicle dubs it "a rousing release for fans." Produced by Grammy-nominated producer Cheryl Pawelski, co-founder of Omnivore Recordings, whose credits include Big Star's Keep an Eye on the Sky, The Band's A Musical History and Townes Van Zandt's Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos 1971 1972, Alpha Mike Foxtrot features 64 pages of liner notes that include track-by-track recollections from Wilco founder Jeff Tweedy, notes by band members Nels Cline and John Stirratt, and reflections from members of Wilco's extended professional family. The booklet also showcases dozens of archival and never-before-seen photos from a wide array of photographers chronicling all phases of the band's career.
Modern Music, the collaborative recording between longtime colleagues and jazz pianists Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays, and composer and arranger Patrick Zimmerli (a mutual friend of both) is startling for its deep reliance on modern classical technique and arrangements. Certainly, Mehldau is known for dabbling in all sorts of music, from pop to classical on his recordings and in live performance. Hays, too, has branched out in recent years, from his signature, intelligent, hard swinging post-bop approach to include compositions with modern classical touches, such as those found on Piano Works, Vol. III. Zimmerli, who wrote the charts for this session, played saxophone in his younger years.