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Music News 11/25/2014

Chants from Syria

CD CoverWashington drummer and musicologist Jason Hamacher visited Syria many times before the current civil war, and recorded musical songs and chants by tradition bearers who are now in exile, or in great danger. He is working on a book and several recordings of the different chant traditions in Aleppo and other sacred sites. The first release is Nawa: Ancient Sufi Invocations & Forgotten Songs from Aleppo: Sacred Voices of Syria Vol. 1 (Lost Origins, $16.98).

In August, Jason was interviewed on Fresh Air; and just last month, there was an interview on Interfaith Voices. Check out Jason’s work at


New jazz

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Three highly recommended albums:
Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Hamburg ’72 (ECM, $18.98) – Pianist Keith Jarret’s first long-standing trio had two incomparable members: bassist Charlie Haden (from Ornette Coleman’s ground-breaking quartet) and drummer Paul Motian (from Bill Evans’s superb trio). This adventurous trio (they later added Dewey Redman on saxophone) created some dynamic music in the 1970s—many call it Jarrett’s most creative period—at the same time that Jarrett was recording his best-selling solo albums, like the Köln Concert. On Hamburg ’72, you hear the trio (including Jarrett on flute and soprano sax) in superb form.

Omer Avital, New Song (Motema, $14.98) – Israeli bassist Omer Avital merges folk forms and jazz on his new album. He wrote songs inspired by his Mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jewish) roots—Yemenite on his mother’s side, Moroccan on his father’s.  His quintet--Avishai Cohen, trumpet, Joel Frahm, saxophone, Yonathan Avisahai, piano, and Daniel Freedman, drums—bring these melodic and danceable tunes to vivid life.

David Virelles, Mbókò (ECM, $18.98) – Pianist David Virelles goes deep into Afro-Yoruban and Cuban roots on his new album. Virelles plays with two bass players (Thomas Morgan and Robert Hurst), and two drummers (Marcus Gilmore on trap drums and Román Díaz on biankoméko [the four-drum ensemble that’s part of Abakuá ceremonies]). There are slow, droning grooves, and a wealth of interlocking rhythms which percolate under Virelles’s piano.


Musicals at Arena Stage

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There are two great musicals now playing at Arena Stage.

Fiddler on the Roof premiered on Broadway fifty years ago, and has become one of the most beloved musicals in history. The music was written by Jerry Bock, the lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and the book by Joseph Stein. Hear Zero Mostel as the iconic Tevye, on Fiddler on the Roof: Original Cast Recording (Sony Broadway, $11.98). The Arena production of Fiddler runs through January 4.

Actor Clarke Peters (The Wire, Treme) wrote the book of Five Guys Named Moe with all Louis Jordan songs, which premiered in London in 1990, and Broadway in 1992. Louis Jordan was a supreme entertainer—singer, songwriter, bandleader and saxophonist—who wrote some of the catchiest and funniest songs of the 1940s and early ’50s. “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” ‘Let the Good Times Roll,” “Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Caldonia,” “Five Guys Named Moe,” and “Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying” were all hits—and are still popular. Listen to Jordan’s originals on The Best of Louis Jordan (MCA, $6.98), with 20 wonderful songs. Five Guys Named Moe runs through December 28.