Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Best of 2010 (Part 2)

Rudresh Mahanthappa was nothing if not noticeable this past year.  Besides one excellent and one very good "twin altos" CDs, he appeared with Amir ElSaffar's Two Rivers Ensemble and guitarist Nguyen Le's Saiyuki Trio, recorded with Danilo Perez, and more.  It's the "twin altos" projects that really hit the spot.  "Apex" (Pi Recordings) is his collaboration with septuagenarian Bunky Green - the music soars, roars, and pours from the 2 saxophonists. There is a smashing rhythm section of drummer Damion Reid and bassist Francois Moutin along with pianist Jason Moran - Jack DeJohnette appears on 4 tracks. The energy level is impressive as is the interplay and ideas. 
Mahanthappa's other duo was with Steve Lehman on "Dual Identity" (Clean Feed), a fiery program also fueled by Reid and featuring guitarist Liberty Ellman and bassist Matt Brewer. Both recordings are worth your attention.

Ted Hearne's "Katrina Ballads" (New Amsterdam), initially released as a download-only in 2008, received its "physical" release around the time of the 5th anniversary of the disastrous hurricane.  If anything, the music and the words (all taken from news reports) are just as striking and damning as they were on initial listening.

One "modern classical" CD I received but did not review was "10 Mysteries" (Tzadik) from guitarist/violist John King. His music is quite involving, making one pay attention as the string quartet Crucible (featuring King, violinists Cornelius Dufallo and Mark Feldman with cellist Alex Waterman) move effortlessly through the challenging material.  The title track is a 32+ minute, 9-part suite while the other 2 pieces feature "live" electronics - "Winds of Blood" gets 2 performances because of the chance nature of the electronic environment and that experimentation is thought-provoking and an intelligent manner in which to show how the music changes and grows off the page.

The newest release from Kronos Quartet, "Rainbow" (Smithsonian Folkways), features music and musicians from Central Asia including Afghan composer and rubab player Homayun Sakhi and Azerbaijani composer/vocalist/percussionist

Nguyên Lê's Sai, recorded with Danilo Perez, 

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