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Soundtrack, Documentary and Concert: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll

CD CoverDon’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 just opened in New York (read A.O. Scott’s New York Times rave review 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.”

Next Wednesday, April 29, the AFI Silver Theatre will present a special screening of Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll with director John Pirozzi and a post-film concert with surviving members of the bands Baksey Cham Krong, the Drakkar, and song tributes to the charismatic singers Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea, who did not survive the onslaught. Chhom Nimol, the great singer from the band Dengue Fever, will be singing a collection of Ros Serey Sothea’s songs.


Music Books: Billie Holiday & jazz at the white house

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about recent album tributes to Billie Holiday in her centennial year—by Cassandra Wilson and José James.

I also wanted to highlight a great new book, Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth (Viking, $28.95) by John Szwed, music professor at Columbia, who has also written great biographies of Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Alan Lomax.

In 200 concentrated pages, Szwed gets to the heart of Ms Holiday’s life and art—using new archival sources, interviews, and cleverly weaving in the most perceptive of the previous writings about Lady Day.

In his “myth” section, Szwed sheds light on the creation of Holiday’s memoir, Lady Sings the Blues, her collaboration with her co-writer, journalist William Dufty, and reviews the original manuscript and what she could and could not include—all to focus on her turbulent life and her choices in self-presentation. In the longer “musician” section, he devotes sections to all her stylistic periods, her many collaborations, and goes in-depth into many of her most famous songs, and performances. Szwed outlines Ms Holiday’s many contradictions—and the contradictions of our mythical, golden “jazz age”--and the battles she fought to become one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.

The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artists at the White House, 1969 – 1974 (IM Press, $15) – Edward Allan Faine follows up his 2013 book, Ellington at the White House 1969, with more musical tales from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For a host of state dinners and other White House tributes, dignitaries and guests were entertained by such stars as the Modern Jazz Quartet, Peggy Lee, Bobby Short, Pearl Bailey, Henry Mancinci, Al Hirt, and Billy Taylor. Mr. Fain devotes his longest chapter—with a song-by-song analysis—on the dinner for Italian Prime Minister Andreotti on April 17, 1973. The star was none other than Frank Sinatra, with Nelson Riddle conducting the Marine Corps Orchestra.


Rootsy Sounds

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Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color (ATO Records, $12.98) – Lead singer Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes can belt and wail with sheer power, but on the second Alabama Shakes album, she proves she can croon like Prince and Marvin Gaye as well. The CD begins with the sound of vibraphones, and spacey, jazzy sounds come into play this time, as well as the raw, bluesy guitars and drums as heard before.

Dwight Yoakam, Second Hand Heart (Warner Brothers, $17.98) – Dwight Yoakam came storming on the country scene with Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. in 1986, with his own take on the stripped-down, revved-up Bakersfield sound popularized by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. He’s still writing good songs, and his sound is still energized by those same guitars and a big beat.

Lila Downs, Balas y Chocolate (Sony Latin, $10.98) – Mexican singer Lila Downs uses the Day of the Dead theme to address both the personal and the political in hard-charging songs full of horns, saxophones, and driving accordions. Two duets feature Juanes (Columbia) and Juan Gabriel (Mexico), and the liner notes feature Posada-inspired woodcuts.


Raffle: tickets to Pokey LaFarge at the Black Cat

CD CoverAnother artist who dives into styles of the past—mixing Western swing, pre-war jazz and blues—is Pokey LaFarge. The sounds of upright pianos, cornets and saxophones, slap-bass, banjos and harmonicas set the scene behind originals and some covers.

On Saturday, May 2, Mr. LaFarge will perform at the Black Cat. He’s touring behind his new album, Something in the Water (Rounder Records, $15.98).

If you’d like to win the tickets, please email , with POKEY in the subject field.