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Gryphon Diablo 300

Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King ColeConcord CRE-34268-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and others were alive and working, big-band vocal albums like this one used to be released with great regularity. But only a choice few were so finely crafted. George Benson is revered as a guitarist, but he also sings, and this album is evidence that he should be highly regarded for that talent as well.

I Thought About YouConcord Picante CJA-34191-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Eliane Elias says, of her new disc, “I Thought About You was inspired by Chet Baker and in that sense it is a tribute to Chet, it was a natural fit for me to play, to sing music inspired by Chet because I am an instrumentalist and a singer, as Chet was.” Baker’s singing was sometimes close to a whisper, with a relaxed ease and a playful sense of time. The 14 tunes Elias chose for this disc are songs Baker covered over the years, and most are standards. She hasn’t simply performed them as Baker did, however. Instead, his spirit infuses the tracks with the cool precision he brought to both his singing and his trumpet playing.

Todo Corazón: The Tango AlbumJazzheads JH1198
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Mark Weinstein insists on doing things his own way. The bassist and trombonist took time off from music to earn a PhD in philosophy, and when he returned to music, his instrument was the flute, his technique and sound entirely self taught.

Plays BondDo Music DMRCD 012
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

The James Bond movie series, now 50 years old, is probably as vital today as it was in the Sean Connery years. My son and I agree that Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery, and that the last three films are some of the most enjoyable the series has produced in years. The music in the films is almost as iconic as the main character, especially the themes composed by the late John Barry. But pop tunes written for them by other songwriters have also found their way into our collective memories.

Monica RameyAdair Music Group 700261370958
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

Nashville is well known for its fabulous country singers, but on the evidence of this CD, jazz, too, is alive there, and doing very, very well. Pianist Beegie Adair has 34 recordings to her credit, and she and her trio -- bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown -- play a weekly date at F. Scott’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar, whose patrons must count themselves very fortunate to hear such amazing music. The three have played together a long time, and their musical lines weave in and out comfortably as the musical spotlight shines first on one, then the other. Though each has a distinct musical personality, they come together in perfect unanimity, seeming to breathe together -- “tight-knit” is an understatement.

Emilia AmperBIS/eClassical.com
Format: FLAC 24/96 Download

Musical Performance: ***1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****

The nyckelharpa is an instrument of Swedish origin dating back to at least the 14th century. It is bowed like a violin, but instead of the musician’s fingers pressing the strings against the fingerboard to alter the pitch, it has a series of key-activated frets. In addition to the four main strings, the modern nyckelharpa has 12 sympathetic strings that are tuned to the pitches of the chromatic scale. (Older examples had varying numbers of sympathetic strings with different tuning schemes.) These give the instrument added resonance, and a complex timbre rich in upper harmonics. The nyckelharpa is important in the Swedish folk tradition -- an image of one appears on the reverse of the 50-kronor banknote.

Emy TsengMei Music
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Though I’ll always cherish memories of Charlie Byrd, who helped introduce Brazilian music to US audiences, who’d have thought that Washington, DC, had an active Brazilian jazz community today -- or that one of its brightest lights would turn out to be Emy Tseng, who was born in Taiwan, and came to DC by way of Seattle and New York City? But it’s undeniable on the evidence of Sonho, which features Tseng in 11 buoyant cuts, backed by first-rate musicians who would be welcome in any world capital.

Ninety Miles: Live at CubadiscoConcord Picante CPI-34173ADV
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

When Stefon Harris, David Sanchez, and Christian Scott went to Havana for a week in May 2010, to make a studio recording and give a live performance at the Cubadisco Festival, they brought a film crew along. The BBC picked up the resulting documentary, Ninety Miles, and last year Concord Picante released a CD/DVD package that included footage from the group’s festival performance. The CD of studio recordings was well received, and now Concord has released seven live tracks from the festival as Ninety Miles: Live at Cubadisco.

Elizabeth ShepherdLinus 270155
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

I listen to a lot of recordings by jazz singers, and though there might be a bit of difference among them, at times they can all seem to sound alike. So it was with no particular hope that I put this one in the player and sat down to listen. What I heard was a pure breath of fresh air from Canada, an album so original and appealing that it seemed to blow all the cobwebs out of the corners of my listening room.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time OutColumbia/Analogue Productions CAPJ 8192 SA
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD

Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: *****

Few jazz recordings from the LP era have enjoyed the enduring popularity of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out. A brisk seller when released in 1959, it has remained in print ever since, and sold enough copies to be certified platinum. That was a great year for jazz -- Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um were also released in 1959. All three were produced by Teo Macero, engineered by Fred Plaut, and released by Columbia Records.