Music News 9/17/2020


Tonight, Thursday, September 17, at 6 p.m., New Yorker music writer Alex Ross will talk about his brand new book, WAGNERISM: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $40. Mr. Ross will be in conversation with Anne Midgette, former classical music critic of the New York Times and the Washington Post. There will be a special introduction by James Holman, chairman of the Wagner Society of Washington DC. 

Mr. Ross has an abundance of material related to his book at his website,, including a chapter-by-chapter audiovisual guide, a guide to Wagner’s works, recommended recordings, videos, and books, a Wagnerian glossary, a bibliographic essay, plus examples of Bad Wagner Poetry.  Click here for more information and to log in to the event. 



Thelonious Monk Quartet, PALO ALTO (Impulse, $14.98) – On Sunday, October 27, in the traumatic year of 1968, the Thelonious Monk Quartet played a benefit concert at Palo Alto High School. It was organized by 16-year-old Danny Scherr as a way to bring together the communities of Palo Alto and the predominantly African American East Palo Alto.  

Scherr unearthed the tapes of the concert, and got in touch with Monk’s son, T.S. Monk. You can now hear the Quartet (Charlie Rouse, tenor; Larry Gales, bass; Ben Riley, drums) in top form on Monk classics like “Epistrophy,” “Blue Monk,” “Ruby, My Dear” and “Well You Needn’t,” along with lesser-heard gems like “I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams” and “Don’t Blame Me.”  T.S. Monk describes it as “one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard by Thelonious.”  Also available in vinyl for special order. 


Brad Mehldau, SUITE: APRIL 2020 (Nonesuch, $14.98) – Pianist Brad Mehldau wrote a suite of new songs while in Covid-19 lockdown. Mehldau follows the suite with three meaningful songs: Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” Billy Joel’s “A New York State of Mind,” and, to end the album, the Jerome Kern/Buddy DeSylva gem, “Look for the Silver Lining.”  

Neil Young, THE TIMES (Reprise, $9.98) – Neil Young just recorded solo versions of seven songs that speak to our times: “Lookin’ for a Leader,” and new takes on “Ohio,” “Alabama,” “Campaigner,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Southern Man,” and “Little Wing.”  


August 29th was the 100th birthday of the revolutionary bebop alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920 – 1955). His alto playing still sounds fresh today: full of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas, and always note-perfect, no matter how fast he’s playing. His inventiveness and commitment have inspired every generation during and after his lifetime. Two recent albums show how Parker’s influence continues to grow. 

Bobby Watson, Vincent Herring, Gary Bartz, BIRD AT 100 (Smoke, $17.98) – Three masters of the alto saxophone pay tribute, with Dave Kikoski, piano, Yasushi Nakamura, bass, and Carl Allen, drums. The tunes are all by or associated with, or inspired by Charlie Parker, like “Klactoveedsedstene,” “April in Paris,” “Yardbird Suite,” and “Bird Lives” (by Jackie McLean). 

In 2015, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa released a quintet album, Bird Calls, featuring all Parker-related tunes. Now, on HERO TRIO (Whirlwind, $15.99), he explores the saxophone trio format with bassist François Moutin, and drummer Rudy Royston. On it, he continues to pay tribute to Parker, with tunes like “Red Cross,” “Barbados,” and “Dewey Square.”