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Music News 5/11/2011



When I first heard “Illusion” from Gregory Porter’s CD, WATER (Motema Records, $15.98), I was captivated. It’s a beautiful song of lost love, wonderfully rendered without any of the vocal pyrotechnics that are a part of so much modern-day singing. Porter only needs his voice to convey the beauty or the energy of a song, whether it’s a jazz standard like “Skylark,” or an original like the title song. The band featuring the likes of saxophonist James Spaulding is tight. They provide the perfect accompaniment for this singer whether he’s crooning a ballad or scatting on an upbeat number. As the noted jazz singer Jamie Cullen wrote in a review for the BBC, “Finally! A singer with chops and soul . . . .” I couldn’t agree more!
Deb Morris




Kate & Anna McGarrigle, TELL MY SISTER (Nonesuch, 3 CDs, $23.98) – When Kate McGarrigle died last year, the first two records that Kate and her sister Anna recorded—among their very best—were out of print. The 3-CD set, Tell My Sister, brings back those two albums, Kate & Anna McGarrigle (1976) and Dancer with the Bruised Knee (1977), and adds a third CD of unreleased songs and demos. Listen again to these gems.
Fresh Air had an interview with Anna this week ( ). There is also a celebration for Kate this week at Town Hall featuring her children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and friends Emmylou Harris, Antony, and Teddy Thompson.

Chris Thile & Michael Daves, SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN (Nonesuch, $15.98) –Vocal duets have a long tradition in country and bluegrass – they took close-harmony singing to new levels. Now a new generation of virtuosos continue in the tradition. Mandolinist Chris Thile (from the Punch Brothers) and guitarist Michael Daves are both pickers with plenty of attitude, and they mix traditional songs with tunes associated with Flatt and Scruggs, and the Louvins Brothers. Check out their video of “Rabbit in the Log” ( ) and others on the Nonesuch site.

You’ll also hear “Rabbit in the Log” (this time titled “Have a Feast Here Tonight”) on DUETS: LIVE 1963-1980 (Smithsonian Folkways, $16.98), sung by two pioneers: the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, and guitar legend Doc Watson, recorded at various folk and bluegrass festivals. The pair reach back to the pre-bluegrass repertoire of the Monroe Brothers (Bill and Charlie), and include great tunes like “Soldier’s Joy” and “Foggy Mountain Top.”


Do-it-yourself ensembles led by composers burst on the scene in the late sixties and early seventies; two pioneers were Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Now their example is the norm in contemporary music.
The Now Ensemble includes flute, clarinet, electric guitar, bass, piano, and three composers (Judd Greenstein, Patrick Burke, and Mark Dancigers); listen to their new CD, AWAKE (New Amsterdam Records, $11.99).
Composer Missy Mazzoli’s ensemble, Victoire, combines strings, clarinets, keyboards and lo-fi electronics. Their 2010 album, CATHEDRAL CITY (New Amsterdam Records, $13.99) was on the best-of list of the New York Times. The Washington Post had a profile of Ms Mazzoli last Sunday ( ).

These two ensembles will perform as part of Library of Congress music season at the Atlas Center on H Street, this Saturday, May 14.


Silenced Voices


Wendy Lesser has a new book, MUSIC FOR SILENCED VOICES: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets (Yale University Press, $28), that absolutely needs musical accompaniment.
Two recommended performances of the complete Shostakovich string quartets: the Emerson String Quartet’s COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS (Deutsche Grammophone, 5 CDs, $39.98) and the Shostakovich String Quartet’s COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS (Musical Concepts, 5 CDs, $24.98) are available to special order. Please email me at:

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András Goldinger