Music News 6/24/2021


Nina Simone, THE MONTREUX YEARS (BMG, 2 CDs, $20.98) – Vivid performances from the Montreaux Jazz Festival in the years 1968, 1976, 1981, 1987, 1990.

Nicolas Altstaedt & Friends, KODÁLY: DUO & DVOŘÁK: TRIO (Alpha, $18.99) – Cellist Nicolas Altstaedt is the Artistic Director of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, which started in 1974, and is most famously associated with former director, Gidon Kremer. An outgrowth of the festival are the (now) two recordings Altstaedt has made with attending musical colleagues. 

Their first, Veress: Trio and Bartók: Quintet (2019) won both Gramophone Magazine’s and BBC Music Magazine’s Awards for Best Chamber Music. 

Now, Altstaedt returns with violinist Barnabás Kelemen and pianist Alexander Lonquich to play Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello and Dvořák’s famous “Dumky” Piano Trio

Caroline Shaw & So Percussion, LET THE SOIL PLAY ITS SIMPLE PART (Nonesuch, $15.98) – In January, composer/singer/violinist Caroline Shaw released Narrow Sea, a suite written for soprano Dawn Upshaw, pianist Gilbert Kalish, and the quartet, So Percussion. 

Now, she takes on the vocals herself, in new tunes written in the studio, in collaboration with So Percussion. The songs have lyrics “inspired by their own wide-ranging interests: James Joyce, the Sacred Harp hymn book, a poem by Anne Carson, the Bible’s Book of Ruth, the American roots tune “I’ll Fly Away,” and the pop perfection of ABBA, among others.” 


This past Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the release of Joni Mitchell’s BLUE (Reprise, $12.98). This hallmark of the singer/songwriter era has influenced many songwriters and singers ever since, not to mention musicians across other genres. 

As well as the lyrics, the subtle musical landscape that Joni Mitchell created—strong rhythms driven by dulcimer, with subtle guitar and percussion layers, alternating with her piano ballads—sound as distinct today as in 1971. 

In early July, THE REPRISE ALBUMS (1968 – 1971), a newly re-mastered box set of Ms. Mitchell’s first four studio albums will be released: Song To A Seagull (1968), Clouds (1969), Ladies Of The Canyon (1970), and Blue (1971). 

Later this fall, on October 29, JONI MITCHELL ARCHIVES VOLUME 2: THE REPRISE YEARS 1968 - 1971 (5 CDs) will be released, full of demos and live cuts from this period.  


Recently, I wrote about the soundtrack to IN THE HEIGHTS: Original Soundtrack (Atlantic, $18.98), the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes. 

It’s now playing at our neighborhood Avalon Theatre, now open again.  

Next Friday, July 2, Summer of Soul, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s documentary on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, will open. The performers included the Staple Singers, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.