Music News 9/10/2020

NEW 

Igor Levit, ENCOUNTER (Sony Classics, 2 CDs, $18.98) – Pianist Igor Levit has released astonishing albums devoted to Beethoven, Bach, Rzewski, and arrangements by Busoni, Brahms, and Liszt. Levit live-streamed dozens of home concerts during the first months of the pandemic, exploring a wide range of repertoire, including a marathon 15-hour performance of Satie’s Vexations.  On Encounter, Levit again arranges an fascinating journey across two CDs: he mixes Busoni transcriptions of Bach’s chorale preludes and the late Brahms; Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge; and ends with Morton Feldman’s quiet work, Palais de Mari (1986). 

Artemis, ARTEMIS (Blue Note, $12.98) – Artemis is a new jazz super-group with some powerful players: Melissa Aldana, saxophone; Anat Cohen, clarinet; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Renée Rosnes, piano; Noriko Ueda, bass; Allison Miller, drums; and Cécile McLorin Salvant, vocals. It is also a globe-spanning ensemble, with members from the U.S., Canada, France, Chile, Israel, and Japan. Each member has composed or arranged songs on the album, which include versions of Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Fool on the Hill.” Ms. Salvant’s two features are Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic,” and “Cry Buttercup Cry,” associated with Maxine Sullivan. Artemis are profiled (and grace the cover) of the latest DownBeat Magazine. 

MUSICAL LOSSES: HAL WILNER 

 Over the last 40 years, Hal Wilner gathered together disparate cutting-edge musicians from many genres to produce some of the most creative tribute albums of all time, starting with Amarcord Nino Rota (1981), and including compilations devoted to Kurt Weill, Disney songs, Thelonious Monk Charles Mingus, Harry Smith, and sea chanteys. He was also the long-running musical director of Saturday Night Live, and produced albums by Marianne Faithful, Lucinda Williams, Allen Ginsburg, Lou Reed, and Laurie Anderson. Mr. Wilner, who died from the Covid-19 virus in April, was finishing his last tribute project:   

ANGELHEADED HIPSTER: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (BMG, 2 CDs, $19.98) again boasts an eclectic lineup: Joan Jett, Father John Misty, U2 and Elton John, Marc Almond, Beth Orton, Lucinda Williams, David Johansen, Victoria Williams, Gaby Moreno, and Peaches. One of the highlights is a beautiful version of “Cosmic Dancer” by Nick Cave.  

CATCHING UP WITH SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS 

Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn, WU FEI & ABIGAIL WASHBURN (Smithsonian Folkways, $16.98) – Two string virtuosos—guzheng (zither) player Wu Fei and banjo player Abigail Washburn merge Chinese folksong and American old-times songs, both players singing as well.  

DOC WATSON AND GAITHER CARLTON (Smithsonian Folkways, $16.98) – These rarely-heard performances are from Doc Watson’s earliest concerts, in Greenwich Village in 1962. They were among the few joint appearances Doc made with his father-in-law, fiddler Gaither Carlton, outside of North Carolina.