Mitski, THE LAND IS INHOSPITABLE AND SO ARE WE (Dead Oceans, $15.98) – Japanese-American artist Mitski has produced her most ambitious, “cinematic” album yet, with her arrangements featuring a choir and orchestra. She describes her album as her “most American” and focuses on themes of love.
MORE THAN A WHISPER: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith (Rounder, $16.98) – Nanci Griffith (1953 – 2021) grew up in Austin, Texas, had roots in country and folk. She wrote and sang many memorable songs, and had many fans, among them, her fellow singer/songwriters. Brandy Clark, Shawn Colvin, Iris Dement, Steve Earle, Mary Gauthier, Emmylou Harris, Sarah Jarosz, Lyle Lovett and Kathy Mattea, Ida Mae, John Prine and Kelsey Waldon, Todd Snider, Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and The War And Treaty (Tanya and Michael Trotter) all pay tribute to Ms. Griffith on this new collection.
DISNEY 100 / HERB ALPERT
The Walt Disney Studio was established in 1923. One of the most inventive tributes to the music in Disney films—with a wide (and wild) range of contributors—came out in 1988.
STAY AWAKE: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films (A&M, $12.98) is one of the early albums produced by Hal Wilner, who brought together Betty Carter, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, Yma Sumac, Suzanne Vega, James Taylor, and narrator/sound artist Ken Nordine, among others. Highlights include Tom Waits (deep in the mine) singing “Heigh Ho,” Sun Ra and his Arkestra’s take on “Pink Elephants on Parade,” and Sinead O’Connor’s wistful “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
The last song on Stay Awake is Ringo Starr singing “When You Wish Upon a Star,” with a beautiful trumpet solo by Herb Alpert. (And the album came out on Herb’s label, A&M, co-founded with Jerry Moss, who recently died.)
Herb Alpert is still going strong, and has a brand new album, WISH UPON A STAR (Herb Alpert, $14.98), that includes his take on the title song, plus such classics as “Angel Eyes,” “Poinciana,” “And I Love Her,” and “On the Street Where You Live.” He also does a Tijuana Brass-like take on Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down,” and covers songs by artists who had their great hits on A&M, like Cat Stevens (“Father and Son”), and the Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun”).
I highly recommend the recent documentary, Herb Alpert Is…. (The cover painting is also by Mr. Alpert.)
Steve Lehman & Orchestre National de Jazz, EX MACHINA (Pi, $16.98) – Alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, and the ONJ play works by Lehman and ONJ’s artistic director, Frédéric Maurin. “Ex Machina makes frequent use of otherworldly spectral harmonies that are reinforced and transformed, in real-time by live, interactive electronics developed at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique, founded in 1977 by Pierre Boulez). Soloists in the ensemble interact with highly-nuanced harmonies, propulsive rhythms, and computer-driven sound transformations to thrilling effect. This ambitious project is indisputably a major conceptual step forward for jazz big band.”
Aizuri Quartet, EARTHDRAWN SKIES (Azica, $16.99) – A beautiful program assembled by the Aizuri Quartet. Works by Hildegard von Bingen (Columba Aspexit), Komitas (Armenian Folksongs), Sibelius (Voces Intimae and the String Quartet in Dm), and a new work by Eleanor Alberga (String Quartet No 1).
NOTE: NPR has a nice review of the album here.