Music News 6/16/2021

Album covers of Wary + Stage by Amythyst Kiah, Squint by Julian Lage, Mingus at Carnegie Hall by Mingus, Debussy: Fantasie/Sonatas/La Mer, Lila by Innov Gnawa, Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar, and Mother Nature by Angelique Kidjo.


Amythyst Kiah, WARY + STRANGE (Rounder, $15.98) – Amythyst Kiah is a member of Rhiannon Giddens’s collaborative quartet of African American women, Our Native Daughters (whose album on Smithsonian Folkways came out in 2019), each reclaiming the Black string band tradition on vocals, banjos and fiddle, and writing strong, new songs. One of the most powerful on that album was by Ms. Kiah: “Black Myself.” 

Now, Ms. Kiah, from east Tennesse, now has her own solo album, full of new songs, and a transfixing sound, akin, in her words, to “Southern Gothic.”  

Read the profile of Ms. Kiah in the New York Times


All four members of Our Native Daughters (Ms. Giddens, Allison Russell, Leyla McCalla, and now Ms. Kiah) have solo albums out. Look for them all. 



Julian Lage, SQUINT (Blue Note, $12.98) – The guitarist Julian Lage has been busy on collaborations: playing electric guitar in Charles Lloyd’s group (heard on 8: Kindred Spirits: Live from the Lobero), and contributing to the acoustic guitar trio (with Bill Frisell and Gyan Riley) that’s on John Zorn’s trio of albums devoted to Christian saints. 

Now, he’s jumped to Blue Note Records, and is out with a swinging trio date with Jorge Roeder on bass, and Dave King on drums. 

Mingus, MINGUS AT CARNEGIE HALL (Atlantic, 2 CDs, $19.98) – Recorded on January 19, 1974, this new re-issue has over 70 minutes of unreleased music. It features Mingus’s group at the time: George Adams and Hamiet Bluiett on saxophones, Don Pullen on piano, and (as always) Dannie Richmond on drums.  

Special guests that evening included Jon Faddis on trumpet, and John Handy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Charles McPherson on saxophones…Some outstanding workouts on “C Jam Blues,” “Perdido,” “Fables of Faubus,” and other classics.  

Brad Mehldau and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, VARIATIONS ON A MELANCHOLY THEME (Nonesuch, $15.98) – Works for piano and chamber group  



Martha Argerich is still going strong at 80, playing concerts, recording, and mentoring young musicians at festivals (she led the Lugano Festival for over a decade). Ms. Argerich is the cover subject of the June issue of Gramophone Magazine, and her new recording is: 

DEBUSSY: FANTASIE / SONATAS / LA MER (Deutsche Grammophon, $14.98) – Recorded live in 2018, Ms. Argerich plays the Sonata for Violin and Piano, and the Sonata for Cello and Piano (with frequent collaborators, violinist Michael Barneboim, and cellist Kian Soltani, respectively). These late works by Debussy are juxtaposed with his early Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra, and La Mer, with the Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. 



Innov Gnawa, LILA (Daptone, $14.98) – The musicians from Innov Gnawa are from Morocco, and are now based in New York City. From the notes: “Gnawa is music and spiritual tradition rooted in Morocco and dates back many centuries. Liberated slaves of Northern and Western Africa integrated their musical rhythms and religious beliefs into the culture of Morocco ... It’s not religious music, but rather music and rhythms that promote healing through trance and spirituality. Groups consist of a ma’Alem, or master, who plays the gimbri—a three-stringed bass—accompanied by a brotherhood of musicians playing the karkabas, which are metal castanets.” 

Mdou Moctar, AFRIQUE VICTIME (Matador, $16.99) – Mdou Moctar, from Agadez, in central Niger, plays the guitar-focused Tuareg music, a mixture of takamba and Western psychedelic rock and blues, mixing acoustic and electric elements. 

Angelique Kidjo, MOTHER NATURE (Verve, $14.98) – Ms. Kidjo, from Benin, has been one of the pioneers and “trailblazer” in bringing African music to an international audience, collaborating with new generations of musicians from across the continent, and connecting Afro-Caribbean styles, as for example, on her tribute album to Celia Cruz.