Music News 10/29/2020


On ARCHIVES VOLUME 1: The Early Years (1963 – 1967) (Rhino, 5 CDs, $65.98), Joni Mitchel opens up her archives, and presents almost six hours of unreleased home, live, and radio recordings from the years before her debut album, Song to a Seagull (1968). Even as a young performer singing folk standards, Ms. Mitchell was a prolific songwriter, and the sets include early versions of songs that would grace such albums as Clouds (1969), Ladies of the Canyon (1970), and Blue (1971). “The collection begins in 1963 with her earliest-known recording as a 19-year-old Mitchell performs at CFQC AM, a radio station in her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The box culminates with a stirring, three-set 1967 nightclub performance recorded at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.” 

Two separate LPs taken from the box set are also available (by special order):  

 EARLY JONI – 1963 (Rhino, LP, $21.98) collects her earliest work 

 LIVE AT THE CANTEBURY HOUSE 1967 (Rhino, 3 LPs, $59.98) showcases three sets from an Ann Arbor club date 


Keith Jarrett, BUDAPEST CONCERT (ECM, 2 CDs, $29.98) – Keith Jarrett has released many live solo piano recitals over a fifty year career, but he was so enthusiastic about this concert from 2016 that he originally wanted to call the album, The Gold Standard. As Nate Chinen (below) wrote: “the embrace of folkloric music by Bartók and other Hungarian composers nudged Mr. Jarrett toward a dark quality…in the concert’s first half. The second half features a few of Mr. Jarrett’s most ravishing on-the-spot compositions.”  Sadly, Mr. Jarrett might not be heard on stages again. He experienced two devastating strokes in 2018, as detailed in Nate Chinen’s New York Times profile, “Confronting Life Without His Piano.” In the article, Mr. Jarrett spoke about his current health, reflected on his career, and on this particular concert.  

Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, ARTLESSLY FALLING (Firehouse 12, $17.98) – Electric guitarist Mary Halvorson’s lyrics (sung by Amirtha Kidambi) are a central focus of her newest group, Code Girl. The first Code Girl (2018) album included Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Michael Formanek (bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Now on Artlessly Falling, Ms. Halvorson has added Maria Grande on tenor sax, Adam O’Farrill is the new trumpeter, and, in addition to Ms. Kidambi, there are guest vocals by British pioneer Robert Wyatt. Each of the eight songs has lyrics in different poetic forms, from haibun, sestina to tanka and villanelle. “Last-Minute Smears” is a found poem including excerpts from Brent Kavanaugh’s testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Kahil El’Zabar, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (Spiritmuse, $13.99) – Percussionist, composer, and bandleader Kahil El’Zabar has been a long time member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and has led two groups, the Ethnic Trio and the Heritage Ensemble. On America the Beautiful, Mr. El’Zabar assembles a powerful quartet with Hamiet Bluiett on baritone sax (on his last recording), Corey Wilkes, trumpet, and Tomeka Reid, cello, along with the James Sanders String Quartet, and a few guests. The songs address our current times: “Jump and Shout (For Those Now Gone),” “Freedom March,” “Prayers for the Unwarranted Suffering,” original arrangements of the title song, and two great covers: “Express Yourself” and “How Can We Mend a Broken Heart.”