We begin this week’s show with the music of three artists with performances in So Cal in the upcoming week. First up, we hear Wu Man, a virtuoso on the Chinese traditional instrument called the pipa. She’s brought the 4-stringed instrument onto the world stage, touring with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and other major groups, blending the pipa with Western traditions on the way. Wu is on a 12-city U.S. tour during the month of March and lands at the Huntington Library in San Marino on Monday, March 5 and at UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, March 8. She performs with the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, a rural puppetry group previously unknown outside of China that has existed for over 300 years. Band members are comprised of farmers from Shaanxi Province. Click HERE for tickets and more information about the Huntington show. This clip from Wu Man’s documentary Discovering the Musical Heartland provides a glimpse into the shadow puppetry tradition she’s helping to preserve.
Pianist Seong-Jin Cho has become a favorite of mine ever since I heard his wonderful new Deutsche Grammophon recording Debussy. He performs at the Soka University Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo on Saturday, March 3 (tomorrow!), with two shows to accommodate the demand. The program includes works by Debussy, Chopin, and Beethoven. Click HERE for tickets to the 4 p.m show and HERE for tickets to the 8 p.m.
Thelonious Monk has never found a better friend than pianist/arranger John Beasley and his band MONK’estra. On Friday, March 9, Beasley’s 15-piece big band will pay homage to Monk’s music with imagination and precision, accompanied by rare film footage of Monk. This Walt Disney Concert Hall show will feature the crème de la crème of LA’s jazz musicians as well as a rare appearance by vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. There is also a spoken word performance based on Monk’s life. Click HERE for tickets and information.
We then turn to new music by the pianist Kiefer with a laid-back cut called “Miss U,” which I suppose could be the name of a woman or the state of missing somebody. It’s been getting some airplay on KCRW’s airwaves, but as far as I can tell it’s released as a single—no album yet.
We hear next from a new star of Cape Verdean music, Lucibela, from a new Lusafrica release called Laço Umbilical (=umbilical cord). The title may refer to the fact that Lucibela intends to carry on the great morna and coladeira musical traditions of Cape Verde made famous by the late Cesária Évora. Morna is the slow, yearning blues style of Cape Verde, while coladeira is the faster, more joyful and upbeat style. Lucibela has said, “Cesaria is unique and there’ll never be another Cesaria. My aim is to carry on the work Cesaria began.” (source: Propermusic.com)
We then check out a great new album from the Malian artists Djénéba & Fousco. Their sound has that Malian modal minor feel so characteristic of Malian music. Djénéba Kouyate and Fousseyni both descend from illustrious griot families from Mali’s Kayes region. They each won the Toukangoura competition (think Mali’s version of Idol) back in 2010 and 2011.
Brazilian guitarist and composer Mario Adnet rearranges classic Antonio Carlos Jobim songs in a big band format. We hear his treatment of a 1970 Jobim song called “Sue Ann.” This album isn’t brand new, but just came into my hands courtesy of Adventure Music, a label that puts out Biscoito Fino product here in the States. I’m grateful for all the terrific world music Adventure brings to the U.S.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason is a young British virtuoso cellist who has been winning hearts and minds wherever he performs. We hear him play the song “Evening of Roses” by Israeli composer Yosef Hardar. The new CD, Inspiration, also features works by Saint-Saëns, Pablo Casals, Shostakovich, as well as covers of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
We end the show with the track “Kings” on the mesmerizing new ECM album Obsidian by British pipe organist Kit Downes. He plays the three-manual organ of London’s Union Chapel, built by Henry Willis in 1877. The organ is the most complicated of acoustic instruments, and in the acoustic environment of a cathedral or chapel, produces a deep and powerful sound. Downes also performs on different, smaller organs, each with their own sonic characteristics. Typical of ECM releases, the recorded sound of this album is stellar.
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 3/2/18
- Wu Man / “Invocation” / Pipa: From a Distance: Featuring Wu Man / Naxos World
- Seong-Jin Cho / “Debussy: Images I, L.110-3. Mouvement” /Debussy/ DG
- John Beasley / “Played Twice” / MONK’estra Vol. 2 / Mack Avenue
- Kiefer / “Miss U” / Miss U / Stones Throw Records
- Lucibela / “Porto Novo Vila Crioula” / Laço Umbilical / Lusafrica
- Djénéba et Fousco / “Regrets” / Kayeba Khasso / Lusafrica
- Mario Adnet / “Sue Ann” / Jobim Jazz / Adventure Music
- Sheku Kanneh-Mason / “Hadar: Evening Of Roses” / Inspiration / Decca
- Kit Downes / “Kings” / Obsidian / ECM