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Fun Home: Broadway Cast Recording (PS Classics, $16.99) – The musical based on Alison Bechdell’s memoir, Fun Home, has made the leap to Broadway, and is nominated for 12 Tony Awards. Lisa Kron wrote the book and lyrics, and Jeanine Tesori wrote the music. Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn play the parents, and Alison is played (at three different ages) by Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, and Beth Malone—all are nominated for Tonys. Highly recommended.
Jerry Lawson, Just a Mortal Man (Red Beet Records, $14.98) – For 40 years, Jerry Lawson was the unmistakable lead vocalist of the Persuasions, the soulful a cappella quintet. Musician (and former Washington Post writer) Eric Brace reconnected with Mr. Lawson, and has now produced his first solo album, and his first album with instruments. He gathered some of Nashville’s best, including the gospel stars, the McCrary Sisters, to play songs by Paul Simon, Robert Hunter, Mr. Brace, plus tunes dedicated to David Ruffin (“I’m Just a Mortal Man”) and Bobby “Blue” Bland (“Members Only”). Jerry Lawson and Eric Brace talked about his career and the CD on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.
NOTE: Jerry Lawson will be at Blues Alley on Tuesday, July 7.
Bad Plus, Joshua Redman (Nonesuch, $17.98) – The Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; Dave King, drum) are a co-operative trio who’ve been making adventurous music for 15 years. The trio join forces with tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman on original tunes by all four members. He fits right in, whether ballads or tricky time-signature grooves.
NOTE: Joshua Redman and the Bad Plus will play at the Hamilton Friday, June 12 as part of the DC Jazz Festival
Mahan Esfahani & Concerto Köln, Time Present and Time Past (Archiv/Deutsche Grammophon, $16.98) – Last year, the young harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani received Gramophone Magazine’s award (Best Baroque Instrumental) for his C.P.E. Bach: Wurttenberg Sonatas. His new album makes fascinating connections in the use of patterns and “cells” of material, and improvisations, in music of the 17th, 18th, and 20th centuries (and titling the album after a T.S. Eliot Four Quartets line). Esfahani plays three sets of variations on the “La Folia” melody by Scarlatti, C.P.E. Bach (solo) and Geminiani (after Corelli) with Concerto Köln. He also gives us Henryk Górecki’s Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra (1980), and one of Steve Reich’s early “phase” pieces, Piano Phase for Two Pianos (1967), arranged for multi-tracked harpsichord. The harpsichords bring out new colors and timbres in Reich’s driving propulsive piece. The album ends with the resounding Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, influenced by Vivaldi, and with a cadenza by Brahms.
At the AFI Silver for one week only: Cambodian Music Documentary
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll (Dust to Digital Records, $13.98) is the soundtrack to a new documentary about a short-lived golden age of Cambodian pop music, suddenly wiped out during the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge.
The movie had a DC-area premier on April 29 at the AFI Silver Theatre, and is now coming back for a one-week only commercial run starting Friday, May 29. It’s a powerful and unforgettable documentary.
Read A.O. Scott’s New York Times rave here, and an Arts and Leisure background piece. As Mr. Scott writes, the music scene was “marvelously fertile, absorbing a wide range of Western influences and infusing them with traditional Khmer themes and singing styles…girl groups, crooners and bubble-gum divas, skinny suits and big hairdos, funk and psychedelia. But all of it…proved tragically fragile... [The movie] “is an unsparing and meticulous reckoning of the effects of tyranny on ordinary Cambodians…it is also a rich and defiant effort at recovery.”