Music News 3/12/2020


Ella Fitzgerald, THE COMPLETE PIANO DUETS (Verve, 2 CDs, $19.98) – From 1950 to 1975, Ella Fitzgerald released several significant albums featuring her in duet settings with three wonderful pianists. These included Ella Sings Gershwin and Songs in a Mellow Mood (with Ellis Larkins), Ella Sings Songs from Let No Man Write My Epitaph (with Paul Smith), and Ella and Oscar (with Oscar Peterson). The Complete Piano Duets collects all of these tracks as well as a couple of other tracks featuring Smith and Peterson, as well as a  live recording with Tommy Flanagan in Juan-les-Pins. Ella at her greatest!

APALA: Apala Groups in Nigeria 1967 – 70 (Soul Jazz Records, $23.99) – The following are notes from the album, the first full treatment of this music to be released outside the country. Apala “is a deeply rhythmical, hypnotic and powerful musical style that combines the striking nasal-style vocals and traditions of Islamic music, the agidigbo (thumb piano), and the equally powerful drumming and percussion rhythms and techniques of the Yoruba of Nigeria… Apala also functioned as a form of cultural resistance: Apala music involved no western instrumentation and is sung in the Yoruba language, its aesthetic an implicit cultural rejection of the British Empire’s colonial rule over Nigeria which lasted from 1901 until independence in 1960.”

The album features Haruna Ishola, the most significant figure in Apala music, as well as Waka Pakeke, Rapheal Ajide, Adebukonla Ajao, Kasumu Aido, Adeleke Aremu,

Robert Cray Band, THAT’S WHAT I HEARD (Nozzle, 13.98) – Bluesman Robert Cray is celebrating 40 years of performing and recording, and he continues to release fine albums, full of new songs. On That’s What I Heard, he also pays tribute to some of his inspirations including Bobby “Blue” Bland, Curtis Mayfield, and the Sensational Nightingales.


ELLEN REID: prism (Decca, $16.98) – Prism won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for 2019. In the words of the Pulitzer panel, prism “is bold new operatic work that uses sophisticated vocal writing and striking instrumental timbres to confront difficult subject matter: the effects of sexual and emotional abuse. Libretto is by Roxie Perkins. The performers are Tim Parsons, Rebecca Jo Loeb, and Anna Schubert (vocals), with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and NOVUS NY, conducted Julian Wachner.

Ruby Hughes, CLYTEMNESTRA (BIS, $19.99) – Welsh composer Rhian Sumuel’s Clytemnestra (1994) has as its libretto Clytemnestra’s speeches from various translations of  Aeschylus’s Agamemnon. Soprano Ruby Hughes has revived this work, and programmed it with two other works for voice and orchestra: Alban Berg’s Altenberg Lieder (1911) and Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder (1901). She is accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Jac van Steen.