Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These

Great show last night at Boston's Orpheum Theater. The Dresden Dolls, with openers Meow Meow, The Luminescent Orchestrii, and the Lexington High School Drama Club. The traditional carnival atmosphere of Dolls shows prevailed, with performers throughout the venue - living statues, performance artists and more, including the girl dressed in the provocative nurse's outfit serving a platter of crushed strawberry shortcake that looked as if it may have just come out of the operating room. Gross - I didn't have any!

Amanda Palmer was under the weather, so I think they cut their set short. It was powerful and dramatic, even with Amanda's hoarse voice. I hope to one day see her in good voice! But the way she sings, I'm not too hopeful, unfortunately. She could definitely use some vocal training. But musically, she's the whole package, so it is easy to forgive her technical shortcomings since it is rock 'n roll after all.

Brian Viglione was in top form, and all that was missing was an extended drum solo. Why they didn't think of that, I have no clue. He has at least as many admirers in the audience as she does, if not more.

Anyway, it was a fabulous way to end a great year of concert-going. Cheers! and here is the Dolls' Set List:

In The Flesh (cover of Pink Floyd) - Brian opened the show with vocals - a refreshing surprise!
Girl Anachronism
Missed Me
Ultima Esperanza
Coin-Operated Boy
Mrs. O
The Gardener
Two-Headed Boy (cover of Neutral Milk Hotel)
Fool (pre-recorded by Neutral Milk Hotel with dancing by the Lexington High School Drama Club)

Mein Herr
Fight for Your Right (to Party) (cover of Beastie Boys) - with Brian on electric guitar and singing, Amanda on drums, and guest Sxip Shirey on what looked like a melodia
Mandy Goes to Med School - with Meow Meow's accompanist Lance playing piano four-hands with Amanda
Encore: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (cover of Eurythmics)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In Memoriam Oscar Peterson

The summer after I graduated from college, my undergrad degree, I worked as the Artist Liason for a concert series in Waterville Valley, NH. This meant I was responsible for making sure the performers arrived, got settled in their accomidations, made it to and from the venue, and got everything they needed backstage. It was a very cool job to have at age 22. I met violinist Joshua Bell, Roberta Flack, the Canadian Brass and others. But the one artist that was a true gentleman, a really amazing person, not just musician, was Oscar Peterson.

I came to jazz late in my musical development. I was trained classically - in fact, I got that job through my classical saxophone professor. At that time I knew little about jazz. I had never heard of Oscar Peterson. My exposure had been limited to the excesses of late Mile Davis, who I saw play rock-fusion at the 1986 Amnesty International benefit concert, and Spyro Gyra, who I loved in the early 80s. This was my first brush with jazz greatness.

I had the rare treat of sitting in a completely empty hall the afternoon before the concert while Oscar rehearsed the trio. I consider that moment to be the true birth of my love for jazz.

I remember following his limo on the two-hour drive to Logan Airport the day following the concert (which was unbelievable). When we got to Logan, he was concerned about walking the long distance to the gate - his health was already failing him (he had a stroke a few years later, but never stopped playing). I arranged for a wheelchair and I pushed him to the gate myself. He smiled, signed some autographs for the staff that I had been charged with getting, and then gave me a generous $100 tip - completely unexpected and unecessary, but he insisted after I first declined. It was a memorable gesture, but not at all the reason I fondly remember him to this day. He was real. Not a superstar personality - though he had literally played with everyone who was anyone in the jazz world. When his hands touched the keys, he was a giant. But when it was just the two of us at the airplane gate, he was a grandfatherly figure. He loved life and this world. An unfortunately uncommon trait.

Thank you Oscar.

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson
August 25, 1925 - December 23, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 "Best of" List: Concerts

As I do every year, I am posting an incredibly subjective, extremely biased countdown of the top ten concerts I attended this year. I highly recommend any and all of these performers. Catch them the next time they're in town!

10) Matt Langley and Tim O'Dell (at The Press Room in Portsmouth, NH)
Matt is a great jazz saxophonist, and it is great to catch him on the all too rare occaision he has a Portsmouth gig with Tim O'Dell. The two of them really get each other and it comes out in their playing.

9) The Explorers Club/The Blueprint Project (at The Lily Pad in Cambridge, MA)
Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club and Eric Hofbauer's Blueprint Project are wonderfully lyrical, experimental jazz ensembles where the players never stop interacting with each other in the most creative ways. And this was our first visit to the Lily Pad.

8) The Holiday Pops with Kenneth Kiesler (at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH)
Ken is a great friend to PMAC and eight of our young students sat in with the orchestra for two pieces at these concerts, just last week. I hope that one day we'll have a full time professional orchestra on the seacoast.

7) The Molenes (at The Red Door in Portsmouth, NH)
Dave Hunter, Tom Ferry and friends are one of the best local acts on the scene. Just the right mix of country, rock, blues and party.

More on my night out on the town to see The Molenes here.

6) Brandy Carlisle (at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH)
One of the best Music Hall concerts of the year. Riding the wave of her new album, Brandy took Portsmouth by storm and left the town a buzz. We'll definitely be there next time she passes through. (And we met her after the show - she's as sweet as her music.)

5) Kim Kashkashian (at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA)
Violist extrordinaire - that's VIOLA, not violin. A fabulous program that was made special by the fact that we had the rare opportunity to have dinner attend the concert with an old school friend from Baltimore. Thanks for setting that one up, Debbie.

4) Fiveighthirteen/RomanUs/ZumbaTres (at The Barley Pub in Dover, NH and at The Press Room in Portsmouth, NH)
We witnesses a spectacular accomplishment when Fiveighthirteen performed Radiohead's Kid A in its entirety at The Barley Pub, where RomanUs opened for them. And then they opened for ZumbaTres at The Press Room less than a month later. Three great bands, two great shows.

3) The London Octave (at St. Martin in the Fields in London, England)
Our first concert overseas, could you top St Martin in the Fields for a venue? Bach, Handel and more. It was a fabulous way to kick off the year.

For more, read my original post about The London Octave here.

2) The Bad Plus (at The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH and The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH)
I preferred hearing them in the intimate setting of The Stone Church, but their performance at The Music Hall was nothing to sneeze at either. Very possibly the tightest trio in jazz today. And most definitely one of the hippest. And to top everything off - they performed Smells Like Teen Spirit at The Music Hall and Life on Mars at The Stone Church. Life is good.

1) The Year of the Dresden Dolls: The Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer with Jason Webley/Brian Viglione/Gil Ahron Trio with Brian Viglione/The Onion Cellar/True Colors/Sxip's Hour of Charm (at The Zero Arrow Theatre, American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, The Space in Portland, ME, The Brick House in Dover, NH, the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston, MA and at PMAC)
If you read this blog, you already know about my love for The Dresden Dolls. I discovered them late last year, and took just about every possible opportunity to see them live this year. And next Saturday we will FINALLY see the Dolls the way we've alway wanted to see them. In a full rock show they are headlining at Boston's Orpheum Theatre. This year we saw them in the play "The Onion Cellar", opening for Cyndi Lauper on the True Colors Tour, and each individually in various locations and with various groups. Brian Viglione even gave a clinic at PMAC in February. So this was definitely the Year of the Dolls.

For more about The Onion Cellar read this post.

My True Colors Tour post is here.

And here is my post about Amanda and Jason at The Space.

Honorable Mention: Jim Howe Memorial Concert at The Press Room in Portsmouth, NH)
Farewell Jim, we'll miss you terribly. Thanks to Ryan Parker and Les Howe, Jr. for helping us all remember him the way he would have wanted.

Postlude: The concert that never happened - Regina Spektor (at The Orpheum in Boston, MA)
The one bittersweet moments of the year concertwise was when Katie won tickets to see one of our favorite musicians - Regina Spektor - from Bullmoose Music. Yet when we arrived at the concert, the tickets were not there. The show was sold out. HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT. Regina's Label, Warner Music, has promised Katie tickets to a show this year. We'll see what they come up with.

May 2008 bring many, many more great shows!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Remembering Andrew Imbrie

In 1994 and again in 1996-97 I studied composition at the University of Chicago with Andrew Imbrie. He was a visiting professor my first semester at the university and he returned again a year later. I jumped at the chance to work with him both times, and studied with him during his entire tenure at Chicago. He was a friendly, kind man who took immediate interest in my music. In fact, he was one of the few teachers I think I ever had who truly believed in my music - from top to bottom.

We became friends and our relationship moved out of the studio and into the real world. Katie and I would go to dinner with Andrew and his wonderful wife Barbara and discuss life as a musician and composer. I remember him coming to our apartment on South Ellis Ave. to visit, with gifts, when Max was born. I can still see the joy on his face when he cradled week-old Max in his arms. He was in his mid-seventies at the time, tall and bone-thin. Simultaneously imposing and frail.

I remember stories of his children, including one son who tragically died at age 18 in a car accident. He remembered that son with a piano sonata titled "Short Story." His music is a wonderful mix of refined craft and deep sentiment.

Andrew chose a path of teaching for his life - not just to pay the bills. He was a teacher through and through. Many of today's top composers worked with him, and his contributions to the world of music education and composition are important and far reaching.

I am proud to have been one of Andrews students, and even prouder to have been a friend. I will miss him dearly.

For more on Andrew and his life, click below.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Melody for Melonae

Back at PMAC following the first snow storm of the season. May our snow days be few and far between.

Morning listening: Let Freedom Ring - Jackie McLean. The title of this entry is the first track. Happy Tuesday to all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Let it snow...

There's not as much snow on the ground as we were expecting, but the roads are pretty nasty, so we decided to close PMAC for the day. It's often a difficult decision, but the saftey of our students and teachers is always the primary consideration. With reports that rain and snow will continue throughout the day and freezing conditions will remain on the roads, we think we made the right call. So if you were scheduled to come to PMAC today (or even if you're not) take the time to enjoy a hot cocoa instead, play a family board game, read a great book, or even make some music or art! Enjoy your day and we'll be back tomorrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Cold, Cold Holiday Parade

Last night was the annual Holiday Parade in Portsmouth, and boy was it frigid! For the first time in several years, we did not have a float in the parade. We were unable to secure a truck - I think the truck companies were justifiably cautious following last year's tragedy. (for those unfamiliar, google 2006 Portsmouth Christmas Parade Tragedy) So this year, we were in the crowd along Pleasant Street in Market Square. The parade moved along at a brisk pace, most likely influenced by the first serious cold snap of the season. I felt sympathy for the four bands - Rochester, Somersworth, Dover, and Portsmouth High Schools - who endured the conditions to bring musical cheer to the crowds. Holiday spirit was in the air and the Christmas season is now well under way. Hopefully we'll be back in the parade soon!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pegasus and Icarus

Below is Roger Goldenberg's painting "Pegasus and Icarus". This weekend is the annual open house at Portsmouth's Button Factory - an enormous colony of artist studios on Islington Street in the former factory building. Roger is there all weekend, as are all the other artists. Support them this holiday season by buying a print, painting, or other item. Roger, of course, is a personal favorite of mine. Check out his work at And don't forget that they are there all year round. Support our local artists!

Happy December!

That special time of year has arrived and is in full swing. And it looks as if snow is on the way! I'm back in the gym, having recovered from a recent back injury (thanks, Dad - Chiropractor extrordinaire!), and trying to fight the national trend to gain weight this month. How are you taking care of yourself? When you ponder this question, don't forget your creative self. We all need to be able to express our creativity. And preferrably in a way outside of our ordinary, day to day lives. I, for example, am an ameteur writer. Poetry, short stories...I've even attempted novel writing. Nothing I would share, music remains my public art form. But even creative professionals have non-professional ways to express themselves. Composer Arnold Schoenberg painted (as many composers I know do). Writer Stephen King plays in a rock band. What do you do? And if the answer is "not much," think more on this as the new year approaches. And if music or art is something you find interesting, DO IT! Poetry, sculpture, photography, jazz, whatever. It is never too late.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Blogs are infamous for lists and I'll frequently post listening lists, sometimes even random plays from my MP3 player. This is a mildly amusing twist on the random playlist. I found it at The Concert, who borrowed it from Little Ms. Bossy. It actually doesn't amount to much in several cases (see 1, 5, 8, 13, 17). But some random answers are quite fun. ENJOY!

1. Put your iTunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

1. If someone says ‘Is this OK?’ you say?

National Time (The High Water Marks)

2. What would best describe your personality?

We Only Come Out At Night (The Smashing Pumpkins)

3. What do you like in a woman?

Shadowboxer (Fiona Apple)

4. How do you feel today?

Don't Miss You At All (Norah Jones)

5. What is your life’s purpose?

Kammermusik No. 4 (Paul Hindemith)

6. What is your motto?

Trouble (Ray LaMontagne)

7. What do your friends think of you?

Sing (The Dresden Dolls)

8. What do you think of your parents?

Mojo Pin (Jeff Buckley)

9. What do you think about very often?

Baobabs (Regina Spektor)

10. What does 2+2=

In Your Own Sweet Way (Dave Brubeck)

11. What do you think of your best friend?

Tonight, Tonight (The Smashing Pumpkins)

12. What do you think of the person you like?

Hypnotize (The White Stripes)

13. What is your life story?

45/8 (The Pat Metheny Group)

14. What do you want to be when you grow up?

You Can't Always Get What You Want (The Rolling Stones)

15. What do you think when you see the person you like?

Flying (The Beatles)

16. What do your parents think of you?

All The Things You Are (Thelonious Monk)

17. What will you dance to at your wedding?

Coin-Operated Boy (The Dresden Dolls)
Note: "Cheek to Cheek" was our wedding dance!

18. What will they play at your funeral?

Chain 2 (Lutoslawski)

19. What is your hobby/interest?

God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)

20. What is your biggest secret?

Regrets (Dane Cook)

21. What do you think of your friends?

Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Elton John)

22. What should you post this as?

Move (Miles Davis)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley in Concert

Last night Katie and I went to see Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley at The Space in Portland (ME). It was a wonderful, intimate concert - great to see them up close in a space that only fits a few hundred people at most. Why don't we have a venue like that in Portsmouth?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Katie's New Glasses

I love Katie's new eyewear. Here are some photos I took of her and her new specs the day after Thanksgiving in Boston.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Home Alone

In a very rare occurance I find myself home alone for 34 hours straight. Katie headed to NYC this morning with Anna and will not return until late tomorrow and the boys are visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Arlington, MA. Katie is in the city to see Ani DiFranco in concert, and since I'm playing in the band for the PHS production of Grease this weekend, she was very kind arranging to have the kids visit Lori and Ted. So my day involved:

  • Driving my parents to the airport (they've gone to Florida for Thanksgiving)

  • Doing a little bit of uninterrupted web surfing

  • Walking downtown to the Music Hall to see a group of PMAC kids perform at the annual Clavinova Festival (see photo below)

  • Having a leisurely late afternoon meal at The Friendly Toast where I relaxed reading Alex Ross' new book (I'm so full I'm regretting that one a bit now)

  • Heading from there to Cafe Kilim to enjoy a decaf coffee and continue reading my book

  • And now I find myself at PMAC catching up on some work (and taking a little break to write a blog entry)

  • Next up: a 7 p.m. show of Grease at PHS - and I might stop in at Ginna's on the way (she's having a little get-together)

  • Later tonight I'm going to try to stop by Bourbons where Rattlesnake Shake is playing a benefit concert for PMAC

Will I be able to sleep in tomorrow with no one in the house? I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Current Reading

Really enjoying this one so far. Ross is a music critic for The New Yorker magazine. Check it out. Also, check out his blog:, one of the most popular music blogs on the internet. He generously offers music samples that relate to specific chapters in the book at the blog site. Very cool.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Variation on a Theme

In response to Camp Studio:

I'm not really sure if this is right or whatever but the idea is that all these guys were brought up to play Beethoven, banging away at the piano or pulling thier violin bows in that uncertain time of ultimate certainty after World War 2 and those instruments of generations past became the only way they could express their Atonal disbelief in a world gone mad with violence and it's almost weird to think about it this way like it could have been some other instruments as the main instruments of the post tonal wave of compositions but it could have been. Also Atonal hunting wasps planted their eggs in the paralyzed (There are bugs all over me! There are ants in my eyes!) formal structures that were just all over the place anyway too. Bricolage as usually. The reality of their youth, their heritage made the instruments of an age depleted the only logical option for this next phase. They simultaneously spurned and embraced the past - Schoenberg was dead, Mahler alive. So ever since I don't know the 50s all these kids go to school for Classical because it seems like it's either that or Jazz or the horrifying reality of life on the farm and stuff (I love ya Wade baby, Props!). Anyway they (later: we) went and then found there were fewer and fewer ears until Cage did something else - we could be cool so we join the post-college aleotric orchestra and howl and compose with dice and random words and bang on cans we hit all cute and deliberate like babies with hipster hair. Basically we wish we were FREE. No more tuxes and tails, heart-on-sleeve vibrato, recitals, glittering premieres. I'm (re)inventing sound all over again. Anyway now we're in the backlash from that and maybe we're connecting again, maybe not all this stuff has melody. We're making music but we don't know what it is. There's a whole bunch of us by the way, we are the Ex Classical Students (good Halloween idea!). We realized the real Pierrot Lunaire was to just knock the whole Ouji Board over (Props K.C.!). Everyone talks about us but no one listens. The stuff we learned is finding its way into our compositions whether we admit it or not. Are we making Music? Are we Musicians? I'm not sure we care.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ten Recordings You Should Listen To - #11

Lynne McMahon directs the Bow Street Junior Ensemble, a string chamber music group for young students. She actually did supply me with this list a little while ago, but I'd taken a bit of a break from this blog, so I'm just now getting around to posting it. This will be the last in this series, as my goal was to post them all in SEPTEMBER. Here is Lynne's list. She, as did many others, had a difficult time narrowing the list down to 10.

1) Erich Kunzel and Cincinnati Pops - Aaron Copland: The Music of America (Telarc)

I love Copland's music for his rhythm, and melody lines I can't get out of my head. I have this CD in my car because he has such an uplifting, optimistic feel to his music.

2) E. Power Biggs, organ - Bach: Organ Music (Essential Classics)

Any recording by E. Power Biggs is wonderful to listen to if you love organ music, especially Bach, the master of organ music. I heard him years ago at Riverside Cathedral in NYC, and I felt so alive.

3) Emerson String Quartet with M. Rostropovich - Schubert: Streichquintett C-Dur (Deutsche Grammophon)

Here is one of the most beautiful pieces of chamber music I've ever heard. Any recording by the Emerson String Quartet is so worth it. They are top notch international musicians, and to listen to them play with Rostropovich on this recording is so moving. I was able to hear him play at Tanglewood when he first came to the States, and I can't believe how much emotion is in his playing.

4) David Finckel, cello, Wu Han, pianist - Edwin Finckel Music for Cello (ArtistLed)

It's funny how I'm drawn so much to cello music even though I am a violinist. This is a wonderful collection of contemporary pieces,
composed by one of my mentors growing up, and played by his son. The last track is an amazing arrangement of the "Willow Weep For Me" tune, full of surprises.

5) Yehudi Menuhin and Stephan Grappelli - Menuhin & Grappelli: Jealousy and Other Standards (EMI)

Finally a CD that features the violin! I am a closet jazz violinist, so I listen to this and I try topaly along when no one is around. A meeting of two masters, and the classical and jazz traditions combine to make a great recording to listen to. They have so much fun with each other.

6) Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall - Uncommon Ritual (Sony)

Speaking of masters and the classical and jazz traditions coming together, this recording defies description. They explore the outer reaches of their instruments, and stretch my musical horizons. This CD is on my Ipod and in my car. My personal favorite is "Ziguenerweisen". I can't believe Edgar Meyer can play this virtuoso violin piece on his bass!

7) Blue Man Group - Audio (Virgin)

If you haven't gone to see a Blue Man Group show in the theater, then you are missing out on an incredible experience of music, humor, creative experimentation, and surprises. My family went to Boston to see them and we all loved it, even our teenage sons. This recording is not a soundtrack, but an expanded version of the music in the show, recorded in their studio. I love the driving beat and the strong bass line, especially in "PVC IV". Did you know that PVC pipe could make such wonderful sounds?

8) Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Rhino)

Here's a throwback to my high school days. This CD is so rock 'n roll and mostly instrumental with a few songs with lyrics. It has such a wide variety of styles. "The Three Fates" is my favorite track, with incredible organ interludes.

9) Harry Belafonte - An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends (Island Records)

When I was really little my parents used to put Harry Belafonte on the record player and we'd dance all around the house. Because of that, Harry Belafonte makes me feel so happy whenever I hear his singing. This recording made in 1997, was the first Harry Belafonte made after a long hiatus, so his famous songs, like Day-O and Jamaica Farewell have been transformed. This live concert has so many different cultural influences, like the Caribbean, Latin America, Greece, Africa, not to mention America.

10) The Good Luck Joes - What do you think of that noise? (Third Ward Records)

I have really loved listening to this new group of college guys coming up with their own rock 'n roll sound. (My nephew is the drummer.) It's so energetic and driving in feeling. This is their third and newest album and always gets me going. Another perfect CD for my car.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ten Recordings You Should Listen To - #10

Adam MacDougall has been with PMAC since just about the beginning. Our first piano instructor and currently Chair of the Piano Department, Adam is an accomplished teacher and enjoys a wide variety of recordings. As we reach the tenth faculty list, we beginn to see some repetition - sometimes artists, sometimes the exact album. But Adam also offers a unique contribution, one that I'm surprised none of the first nine posters (including myself) had on their list: an album by The Beatles. Here is his list, done in David Letterman fashion - a countdown beginning with number ten:

10. Dave Matthews Band - Crash

This pretty much supplied the soundtrack for my college years, and even still, it never gets old. DaveMatthews is such a brilliant songwriter, and his band is so tight.

9. Muse - Absolution

I was blown away by this album the first time a friend played it for me. They have a unique sound that is beyond description.

8. Glenn Gould - Bach Preludes and Fugues, WTC Book I
When people think of Glenn Gould's recordings of Bach, they generally think of The Goldberg Variations, but I have found his interpretations of the Preludes and Fugues to be even more surprising and inspiring.

7. Pink Floyd - The Wall

This was the first CD I ever bought, and every time I listen to it, I get something new from it. It is a shame nobody makes albums like this anymore.

6. James Levine/Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Brahms' German Requiem

James Levine, Kathleen Battle, Hakan Hagegard, and the CSO perform this mammoth work with such subtle grace. And as far as requiems go, Brahms' blows Mozart's away.

5. The Beatles - Revolver

The Beatles have been one of my favorite bands for as long as I can remember. This album may not be as popular as Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper's, but it should be. Who can resist the feel-good optimism of "Good Day Sunshine" or the compelling political commentary of "Taxman?"

4. Martha Argerich - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3/Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1

This recording would have been amazing even if it hadn't been live--the fact that is elevates it to the realm of miraculous. Argerich's playing is so energetic and exciting, nobody with ears could avoid being moved.

3. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow

Unlike every other fan of The Shins I know, I did not first hear of them in the movie Garden State. I was actually given "Chutes Too Narrow" as a gift, and I became an immediate fan. The music is mellow and upbeat, and the lyrics are strikingly original.

2. Ben Folds Five - The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
Ben Folds Five, contrary to what the name implies, is actually just a trio, but you wouldn't know it by hearing them. This was the first album I ever heard by BFF, and I immediately fell in love with their unique guitar-less rock sound, as well as Ben Folds' clever lyrics.

1. Evgeny Kissin - Chopin Ballades, Berceuse, Barcarole, and Scherzo No.4
What can I say? My favorite pianist playing some of my favorite pieces by my favorite composer. Need I say more? The highlight of this recording is the F minor Ballade (track 4), but every track is amazing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ten Recordings You Should Listen To - #9

While Jon Roth has taught trombone, trumpet and other low brass instruments at PMAC for the past four years, he recently decided to leave his faculty position to take on the assistant conductor position with the Seacoast Wind Ensemble. He is also the band director and music teacher for the Kittery elementary and middle schools. He is a wonderful musican and teacher and we will miss him dearly. We will, however, continue to collaborate - and our next event is a combined concert with PMAC's New Horizons Band (for adults) and the Kittery Middle School Band at the Kittery Middle School's Holiday Concert in December. Though he is leaving us, he did take the time to give us his ten picks. Here they are:

1) New Queen's Hall Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth, conductor - Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Greensleeves

Features several of Vaughn Williams' incredibly beautiful melodies in powerful arrangements.

2) Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1

There are several great recordings of this sometimes overlooked symphony. One of the best examples of late Romantic music.

3) Chicago Symphony Orchestra, George Solti, conductor - Johannas Brahms: German Requiem
Great choir, great orchestra, great music.

4) John Rutter: Requiem

Several different recordings available. It's fun to compare and contrast the way Brahms and Rutter use the same latin texts in different ways. Also I highly recommend the requiems of Faure, Mozart, and Andrew Lloyd Weber (I'm not particularly morbid, I just like requeims).

5) The Central Band of the Royal Air Force - British Music for Concert Band

If you like concert band music it doesn't get any better than this. All of the early 20th century band classics are here by Holst, Vaughn Williams, and Percy Grainger.

6) John Williams and the Boston Pops - Bernstein by Boston

Some of Bernstein's best Broadway show music in classic 'pops' style.

7) Maynard Ferguson - Chameleon

It's not always in tune or particularly musical but if you like your jazz big, bold and dog whistle high this recording is for you!

8) Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority

The rock group Chicago's first album. Nothing comercial about this music. You can't dance to it but there's plenty of soul, gritty guitars, and tight brass. From the era just before disco ruined rock and roll.

9) Bruce Springsteen - Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ

The boss' firstalbum. An old favorite.

10) The Choir of Winchester Cathedral - Christmas Fantasy

If I could only take one Christmas album on a desert island this would be it. Well worthchecking out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ten Recordings You Should Listen To - #8

Nicole Hajj teaches piano and voice at PMAC. Her list reflects her love for jazz, especially with exquisite vocals. And the cover of album #10 shows the famous Green Mill bar in Chicago, where Al Capone once was a regular and where one of my pieces for solo oboe was once performed on a winter Sunday afternoon. Here's her list:

1) Dianne Reeves - The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughn

Most amazing, most innovative vocal album out there. Reeves is a genius and this CD also features the arrangements of one of my favorite producers, Billy Childs. Reeves sense of phrasing is perfection and her powerful vocals leave you breathless. This woman could sing the phone book and still blow me away. Be prepared to have the most thrillful listening experiences of your life!

2)Steve Stevens - Flamenco-A-Go-Go

This is a perfect example of guitar virtuosity and musical creativity at its best. Stevens completely redefines Flamenco with this CD and it will leave your jaw in your lap. The cd as a whole is definitely not background music, as it will cause you to stop whatever you are doing. If you're wondering what you get when you combine a rock/punk/new wave guitarist with latin/flamenco/world beat style, you get this: the most original and provocative ideas matched with Stevens patented playfulness and staggerinly proficient technical skill.

3) Jamie Cullum - Twentysomething

This young artist always leaves me speechless when I try to describe him. He is a jazz musician, with the energy of a rockstar, but also extremely sensitive when he needs to be. He not only breathes new life into old standards, but has some incredible original pieces as well. Although the cd is fantastic, nothing compares to seeing him live.

4) Victor Wooten - Yin-Yang

Wooten, originally from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, has got to be the best electric bass player to ever live (and yes, I know who Jaco is). This album is a very bold 2-disc project. The first disc is instrumental and it is quite amazing, realy exhibiting Victor's musical genius, technical brilliance and outstanding collaboration with many other great musicians. The second disc is a vocal set, which doesn't hold a candle to the first disc, but is worth a listen if only to see just how versatile this artist is.

5) Tom and Joy - Antigua

This album is a smooth, sophisticated mix of samba/acid jazz alternated with traditional bossa nova performed by two talented cousins from Paris, France. This cd was given to me from my father to "expand my horizons" and I have been in love with "Jazzanova" ever since. Put this cd on and be instantly swept away to the French Riviera or the Brazilian sandy beaches.

6) Frou Frou - Details

Frou Frou, now known as Imogen Heap, is best known for her song "Let Go" from the movie, Garden State. I bought this cd for this song alone but then realized that every song is obsession-worthy. It's virtually impossible to blend pop, electronica and ambient music this seamlessly. If this cd doesn't make your ears tingle, you must be deaf. Even though this disc is amazement from beginning to end, "Let Go" is by far one of the most beautifully written songs in any genre ever created.

7) David Foster - The Symphony Sessions

I've been listening to this cd since its debut over 15 years ago and it is still in my top 10 of all time. Exquisite compositions combined with genius keyboard artistry of producer/pianist David Foster. This is some of the most beautiful music ever written and truly is a collector's item.

8) Bebel Gilberto - Bebel Gilberto

This is a bossa nova lover's delight. Bebel is the daughter of latin jazz legend, Joao Gilberto. It is a very classy mix of latin jazz and electronica, performed with lots of sophistication and sexy, breathy alto vocals.

9) Raul Midon - State of Mind

Midon is an incredibly gifted guitarist/vocalist who blends soul and R&B with latin and jazz flawlessly. Midon's style, melodies and subject matter are comparable to the great Stevie Wonder, but with a more modern, urban twist. Every person for whom I have played this cd absolutely loved it and the bought it. It is a very bare bones production as to not cloud the listener's perception of the major raw talent.

10) Kurt Elling - Live in Chicago

This is an excellent jazz vocal album. His influences ranging from bop to Coltrane and beyond, Elling is versatile and technically very strong, and really hip! He has mastered the art of vocalese to a tee and this live set features his vocal improvisations at their best. In my opinion, there is nothing more exhilarating in jazz than the capture of the excitement of a live performance. Kurt Elling is taking up the torch from his mentors, Mark Murphy and Jon Hendricks, and carrying on the tradition of vocal jazz with this incredible live cd. And I always think jazz is not complete without the clinking of cocktails glasses in the background.