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Music News 3/30/23
Nickel Creek, CELEBRANTS (Repair, $14.98) – Chris Thile (mandolin) and siblings Sara (fiddle) and Sean (guitar) Watkins formed Nickel Creek when they were teens; the trio went on to great success, and between side projects (like the Punch Brothers and I’m With Her), have reunited again and again. Their new album, written collectively during the pandemic, is a carefully sequenced set of thematically related songs. They will be on tour this summer (see below).
Aoife O’Donovan, PLAYS NEBRASKA (Yep Roc LP only, $24.99) – Another pandemic project took place on the afternoon of May 9, 2020, when Aoife O’Donavan sang the entirety of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic Nebraska album in her backyard. This take on Nebraska is special, as Aoife brings new perspective to songs like “Atlantic City,” “Johnny 99,” “Mansion on the Hill,” “My Father’s House,” and “Reasons to Believe.”
NOTE: Nickel Creek and Aoife O’Donovan will share a bill at Wolf Trap on Sunday, July 23.
Mighty Poplar, MIGHTY POPLAR (Free Dirt, $15.98) – A new an all-star bluegrass group features two members of the Punch Brothers—Chris Eldrige (guitar) and Noam Pikelny (banjo)—along with Andrew Marlin (mandolin), Alex Hargreaves (fiddle), Greg Garrison (bass).
RIFFS ON CLASSICS
J.S. Bach & Dan Tepfer, INVENTIONS / REINVENTIONS (StorySound, $17.99) – In 2011, pianist Dan Tepfer released his own take on Bach with Goldberg Variations / Variations. Now he takes on Bach’s Two Part Inventions, “interleaved in sequence with nine of Tepfer’s own free improvisations in the ‘missing’ keys to create a new full 24-key cycle.” As Tepfer says, “It’s worth remembering that Bach was most known in his lifetime as an improviser. People traveled long distances, often by foot, to hear him extemporize at the organ or harpsichord. Despite the perfect compositions he left behind, in which it’s difficult to imagine changing a single note, improvisation was at the core of his being.”
NOTE: Mr. Tepfer was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition about the project.
LONDON BREW (Concord, 2 CDs, $20.98) – London Brew is group improvisatory project with some of the U.K.’s leading jazz players, inspired by Miles Davis’s transformative album Bitches Brew (1970). The 12 players include Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia (reeds), Theon Cross (tuba) and Tom Skinner (drums).
John Zorn, NEW MASADA QUARTET VOL. 2 (Tzadik, $19.99) – In 2019, composer and alto sax player John Zorn brought together three new members to form his New Masada Quartet—Julian Lage, guitar; Jorge Roeder, bass; and Kenny Wollesen, drums. His original Masada—Dave Douglas, trumpet; Greg Cohen, bass; Joey Barron, drums—recorded albums in the 1990s, and Zorn’s Masada Songbooks grew to hundreds of tunes.
Boygenius, THE RECORD (Interscope, $18.98) – The collective of three stars of the indie scene: Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus.
On March 2, the music world lost one of its most creative composers, players, and bandleaders—Wayne Shorter. Mr. Shorter was a force for over 60 years, with groundbreaking stints in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis’s Quintet in the 1960s, then co-leading Weather Report, and finally, his long-running Quartet.
For a great introductions to his tunes, and the way his compositions have inspired younger generations, listen to:
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, THE MUSIC OF WAYNE SHORTER (Blue Engine, 2 CDs, $18.98) – Over three nights in May, 2015, Wayne Shorter was the soloist on a range of his tunes, all newly arranged by members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Mr. Shorter is in prime form, energized by the band, playing old and new songs, like “Contemplation,” “Three Marias,” “Endangered Species,” “Teru,” “Hammer Head,” and “Yes or No.”
You can watch Mr. Shorter and the Orchestra in three tunes in a video episode from NPR’s Jazz Night in America. There are some great solos here.