Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Best of 2005 – Music

I did a crappy job getting out to hear music or keeping up on recordings on my own this year. Mostly I followed Chris Davis around, Angle of View and then 310 Chestnut. Here are the shows I did hear that are most worth noting:

Cecil Taylor Trio. This was my second time hearing him, first time with a trio. This was surely a case where seeing him live helps you hear what he is building his music out of and how it fits together. At the Iridium in NY.

TM Krishna. I’ve been listening to Indian music a long time, although only slightly above idly. The performance by this Carnatic vocalist took me to a new level of connection to this music. I would say a new level of comprehension, but I’m not sure how well I understand what is going on. No, this had more to do with my emotional response to the music, to its details as well as larger form shapes. Krishna has a great voice, strong in all its parts, and as you go with him into the performance he creates tremendous energy, spinning out phrase after phrase that drives to tension points derived from phrasing and timbre, not always from piling up speedy runs. I’ve decided that vocal music is the ne plus ultra of Indian music, with all the instrumentalists huddled around aspiring to vocal qualities. At Sri Ganesha Temple in Bellevue.

No Neck Blues Band. This was one of Chris’ shows at Angle of View. The basic substance of NNCK is very good, a ritualistic practice of a catholic sort that absorbs everything good from music of the last 40 years or the last forever. From what I’ve heard their shows can be up and down. My experience was this was a good show, with real religious fervor to it.

Susan Alcorn. I’ve posted a bunch about Susan already. This is the second year running she’s come through Nashville during the summer. She played her piece about the twin shafts of light memorial in NY, which builds into a violent climax that resolves into Curtis Mayfield’s "People Get Ready". I had read about the piece but this was the first I’ve heard it.

Ian Bostridge. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve heard a classical singer of this caliber. And he did an all-Schubert program, no lame show tunes or anything else intended to please the presumed masses. Bostridge dramatizes while he sings, sometimes leaning over and clutching the piano cover, that sort of thing, but you get used to it. The material is so good. That night I was particularly taken with the quality of the poetry, most of which wasn’t poets I think of as major in German literature, like Mayrhofer and Schulze. But I’m probably just showing my ignorance of German literary history.

Carol Genetti/Jack Wright/Jon Mueller. Carol’s a friend from Chicago, and this was her first time in Nashville. Their show had very nice focus, and created a nice visual set up around Erin Hewgley’s hair-covered bed frame. This was definitely in the low db school of small sounds, which means that you can hear Carol, although I have to say I get impatient with the style and want people to cut loose. That’s probably shallow of me, but I also know Carol and Jack can do that well.

W-S Burn. Another 310 Chestnut show courtesy of Chris. I posted on these guys. I had never heard of them, but thought the songs and sounds were great. I think what I liked best was how they come across as very loose, haphazard, but that turns out to be deceptive as the threads drop into focus at just the right time.

Among the musical disappointments were Sandip Burman, a tabla tarang player who opened a Nashville Symphony Orchestra performance of Messiaen’s Turnagalila Symphony. The program sounded good in theory, but Burman’s seemed stuck between delivering a lecture and a performance. The Symphony’s reading of the Messiaen was good. Also, a concert at Sherith Israel by Moshe Tessone of Sephardic music. I thought this would be some of the exquisite Iberian and Moroccan stuff you hear on things like the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, but this was more pop music, better than your usual wedding reception but not out of place there. It was interesting enough to hear, but not quite what I expected.

Like I said, I’m the last person to ask about new recordings. Philip Gayle finally released his recording on Family Vineyard, the Mommy Row. I’m going to review it here one of these days. And for Christmas my wife bought me Jim Baker’s solo album, which came out this year and was long overdue. And the Tito Puente 2-disc retro set that came out this year. These are all really good.


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