Music News 5/6/2021



James Brandon Lewis, JESUP WAGON (Tao, $15.98) – Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has written a “collection of tone poems” for quintet centered on the life and legacy of George Washington Carver. His Red Lily Quintet includes Kirk Knuffke, cornet; Chris Hoffman, cello; William Parker, bass and gimbri; and Chad Taylor, drums. Beautiful songs in the key of Ornette! 

The title refers to the Jesup Agricultural Wagon, “first used by noted Tuskegee Institute scientist and teacher George Washington Carver in 1906. It was a mobile classroom that allowed Carver to teach farmers and sharecroppers how to grow crops, such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and pecans.” (from the Alabama A&M website) 

Notes are by jazz historian Robin D.G. Kelley (author of the definitive biography of Thelonious Monk). 

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas, OTHER WORLDS (Greenleaf, $14.99) – The second album for the group Soundprints (with Lovano on saxes, Douglas on trumpet, Lawrence Fields on piano, Linda May Han Oh on bass, and Joey Baron on drums). There are originals tunes from all the members. 


Merry Clayton, BEAUTIFUL SCARS (Motown Gospel, $13.98) – If you saw the documentary, Twenty Feet from Stardom, or heard her iconic voice on “Gimme Shelter,” you know Merry Clayton’s voice is unmistakable. She returns with a mix of gospel and sweet soul. She revisits “A Song for You” (heard on her first solo album from 1970), and puts everything into the title song, written for her by Diane Warren. 

Van Morrison, LATEST RECORD PROJECT VOLUME 1 (BMG, 2 CDs, $18.98) – Mr. Van Morrison has been prolific over the last five years, often releasing two albums per year. He’s not slowing down with his 42nd studio work, a double-album of blues and r&b.  

Judy Collins, WHITE BIRD: ANTHOLOGY OF FAVORITES (Wildflower, $15.98) – New versions of some of Judy’s most iconic songs, including “Chelsea Morning,” “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” and “Send in the Clowns.” Ms. Collins also duets with Willie Nelson (on “When I Go), Stephen Stills (“Last Thing on My Mind”) and Joan Baez (“Diamonds & Rust”). The title song is a new cover of the 1969 song by It’s a Beautiful Day. 

Lise Davidsen, BEETHOVEN WAGNER VERDI (Decca, $14.98) – Soprano Lise Davidsen sings arias from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Verdi’s La Forza del Destino and Othello, as well as from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, and Cherubini’s Medea. She ends her recital with Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder. She is accompanied by the London Philharmonic, conducted by Mark Elder.


The West African kora (a harp-lute, typically with 21 strings) is often the instrument of the griots, and its sound has been spread far and wide thanks to two of the contemporary masters of the instrument. Each has a new album: 

Toumani Diabaté & the London Symphony Orchestra, KOROLEN (World Circuit, $14.98) – Toumani Diabaté has iconic solo albums, as well as collaborations with his son, Sidiki, and the late guitarist, Ali Farka Touré. His new album showcases the kora in front of the forces of the LSO.  

Ballaké Sissoko, DJOUROU (No Format, $15.98) – In recent years, Ballaké Sissoko has collaborated with French cellist Vincent Segal, and his new one continues with new guests, with Salif Keita, Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, the pioneering female kora player Sona Jobarteh and Mr. Segal again.