Music News 4/1/2020


We’re still shipping CDs, books, puzzles, journals, and everything else that’s in the store. For CD orders, we’re selling stock from the store (so no special orders). For an archive of my weekly recommendations, go to . For orders, please email me directly:


Nina Simone, FODDER ON MY WINGS (Verve, $14.98) – Nina Simone recorded Fodder on My Wings in 1982, after moving to France. She was joined by mostly French African musicians, including a horn section. Ms. Simone wrote introspective songs (some about her stays in Trinidad, Liberia, and Switzerland), as well as singing a French version of the spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” The album was originally released on a small French label and was hard to find. It is now re-issued again with three extra songs from the sessions.


Kenny Barron-Dave Holland-Jonathan Blake, WITHOUT DECEPTION (Dare 2, $14.99) – Pianist Kenny Barron and Dave Holland go back decades, and have a special bond, as demonstrated on their 2014 duet, The Art of Conversation. They continue their collaboration, this time with young drummer Jonathan Blake.

Also keep in mind:

Art of Piano Duo Live: Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller (Sunnyside, 3 CDs, $24.98), which came out last year


Mack Avenue Records has generously offered some great CDs as giveaways:

Aaron Diehl, The Vagabond – a great new piano trio

Bassist Christian McBride, The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons – the bassist’s big band with narration with words by Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Muhammed Ali & Barack Obama

Warren Wolf, Reincarnation – The Baltimore vibist’s with guest vocalist

Raul Midón, The Mirror – singer/guitarist

Tower of Power, Step Up – The brass and horns ensemble going strong after 50 years

Buy any two CDs from P&P and receive a free Mack Avenue CD (while supplies last).


Vikingur Ólafsson, DEBUSSY / RAMEAU (Deutsche Grammophon, $16.98) – In 2018, pianist Vikingur Ólafsson released Works, a splendid Bach album, then reissued it last fall as Works and Reworks, a double CD with new compositions and remixes based on the Bach material. Those albums were a part of the reason he was Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year.

Now he has turned to two French masters, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claude Debussy, born almost 200 years apart. Both were revolutionaries in writing for the keyboard, and Ólafsson imaginatively alternates groups of Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin, with selections from Debussy’s EstampesChildren’s CornerPreludes, and Images. Highly recommended.

Read an interview with Vikingur on the NPR Music site, which also has a couple of tracks to listen to.


Stephen Walsh’s 2018 biography, DEBUSSY: A Painter in Sound (Vintage, $17), is now available in paperback. Walsh previously wrote Musorgsky and His Circle, and the prizewinning, two-volume life of Stravinsky, as well as teaching at Cardiff University, and writing music criticism for The Observer.

To immerse yourself in Debussy, listen to IMPRESSIONS: THE SOUND OF DEBUSSY (Warner Classics, $18.98). It is a 3-CD compilation, and includes such artists as Martha Argerich, Itzhak Perlman, Yehudi Menuhin, Daniel Barenboim, Natalie Dessay, Sir Simon Rattle, Aldo Ciccolini, Philippe Jaroussky, Gérard Souzay, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Kent Nagano, Quatuor Ebène, and Roberto Alagna.

And I still have several volumes of the Harmonia Mundi label’s splendid new recordings of Debussy material—chamber, orchestral, vocal—which were released in 2018.


A good introduction to the artistry of Yuja Wang is THE BERLIN RECITAL (Deutsche Grammophon, $14.98). A program featuring a selection of Rachmaninov’s Preludes and Études-Tableau, piano sonatas by Scriabin and Prokofie (Nos. 10 and 8, respectively), and three of Ligeti’s Études.

The Berlin Recital was Gramophone Magazine’s Best Recital recording for 2019.

Janet Malcolm’s new collection of profiles, NOBODY’S LOOKING: Essays (Picador, $17.98), now in paperback, has a cover of Yuja Wang at the piano. The pieces by Ms. Malcolm include those on Ms. Wang, Rachel Maddow, designer Eileen Fisher (the title essay), and the translation team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, among others. There are also essays on Tolstoy and e-mail etiquette.