Music News 3/18/2021


Jon Batiste, WE ARE (Verve, $14.98) – Jon Batiste has been immensely creative this past year. He wrote the score for and played on the Pixar movie, Soul. He continues to be the music director and bandleader for Stephen Colbert’s Late Show. He’s also played live at demonstrations, voter-registration and vaccination drives. He also worked on a new album, We Are—full of new songs and inspiring collaborations. Mr. Batiste easily blends soul, pop, gospel, R&B, and he brings fellow New Orleans musicians—Trombone Shorty, The St. Augustine H.S. Marching 100, the Gospel Soul Children Choir—as well as his father, and grandfather. The songs are uplifting, joyous, and speaks to our times.  

NOTE: Listen to an excellent interview and performance by Mr. Batiste on NPR’s Fresh Air

Steve Earle and the Dukes, J.T. (New West, $12.99) – Steve Earle’s son, Justin Townes Earle—also a singer and songwriter—died at age 38 last year. J.T. is a father’s tribute, singing songs his son wrote, and adding a new song of remembrance, “Last Words,” as a coda.  

JOHN ZORN: TERESA DE ÁVILA (Tzadik, $18.98) – Zorn wrote music for acoustic guitars—played by the masterly trio of Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, and Gyan Riley—and dedicated them to three spiritual icons. The first two volumes were Nove Cantici per Francesco d’Assisi (2019) and Virtue (2020), inspired by the abbess, Julian of Norwich. Now the third volume is out, dedicated to Saint Teresa de Ávila.  

Fleet Foxes, SHORE (Anti, $12.98) – Robin Pecknold and the gorgeous harmonies and swelling arrangements of Fleet Foxes return. As Pecknold writes, “it’s a celebration of life in the face of death, honoring our lost musical heroes, from David Berman to John Prine to Judee Sill to Bill Withers, embracing the joy and solace.   


Vikingur Olafsson, REFLECTIONS (Deutsche Grammophon, $14.98) – Pianist Vikingur Olafsson’s last album, Debussy/Rameau, creatively programmed two French composers separated by almost 200 years. 

Now, he interleaves Debussy pieces such as Pour le Piano, ‘Bruyères” and “Canope” from Préludes with modern re-interpretations and “reworkings” by Hania Rani, Helgi Jonsson, and others. 

NOTE: Mr. Olafsson is fascinated with transcriptions, “reworkings” and “re-compositions” (his Bach and this Debussy album have many). He created a three-part program on transcriptions for BBC Radio 3 called “Transcribe Transform” that I recommend. 

J.S. BACH: WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER (Warner Classics, $18.98) – Pianist Piotr Anderszewski has programmed 12 Preludes and Fugues from Book II in his own sequencing. As Anderszewski writes, “I perceive them as character pieces. The idea behind playing them in this specific order is to create a sense of drama suggestive of a cycle: twelve characters conversing, mirroring each other.” 

RACHMANINOV: SYMPHONY NO. 1 & SYMPHONIC DANCES (Deutsche Grammophon, $16.98) – Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Philadelphia Orchestra in their ongoing Rachmaninov cycle.