Show #269: New Music Gems

Banner image: Violinist Ray Chen (Photo courtesy of the artist and Decca Classics)

This week, we listen to the newest gems in jazz, classical, and world music. We begin with an unusual and interesting version of Erik Satie’s famous “Gymnopédie #1,” featuring the superb Taiwanese-Australian virtuoso violinist Ray Chen. Although I’ve heard this famous Satie piece many times, Chen’s take on it from his debut Decca Classics album sounds completely new and fresh. Chen won the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin Competition in 2008.

Geoffrey Keezer, a two-time Grammy nominee, is a wonderful jazz pianist. We hear him here in trio format with a version of the Stevie Wonder song “These Three Words,” off of Wonder’s 1991 soundtrack for the Spike Lee film Jungle FeverKeezer’s new album On My Way to You features Mike Pope on bass with Lee Pearson playing drums. Several tracks also feature vocals by Gillian Margot.

Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Cuban singer/violinist Yilian Cañizares collaborate next on the plaintive ballad “Duo de Aguas,” from their album Aguas due out later this year. Sosa, who now resides in Barcelona, records prolifically and tours around the world. A versatile pianist, Sosa is not afraid to experiment and cross musical boundaries. This is the first time I’ve heard Yilian Cañizares perform, but I like what I hear.

The Argentine label ZZK Records releases a cross-pollinated mix of Andean folk music with trip hop, cumbia, ambient dub, and other contemporary sounds. We hear the title track of a new ZZK-produced vinyl album from King Coya called Tierra de King Coya. It’s a bold mixture old and new sounds, of the traditional and the edgy.

Los Angeles’s favorite vallenato group Very Be Careful brings its accordion-driven Colombian vallenato music to us on a new album called Daisy’s Beauty Salon. Vallenato, along with cumbia, are the most popular Afro-Colombian music styles. Very Be Careful is fronted by brothers Ricardo and Arturo Guzman, and the new album’s title refers to their mom’s beauty salon. It also turns out that their mom penned many of the lyrics to the songs!

The new vinyl release by Argentine electronic producer Uji also comes from the aforementioned ZZK label. We hear Uji’s song “Alborada” (Daybreak) featuring singer Anicca. (I also loved the track “Trocitos” by La Yegros from ZZK a while back. It sure moved a lot of people around the dance floor when I spun it.)

We seriously change lanes with the next song by John Coltrane, recorded in 1963 but lost in the shuffle when ABC-Impulse moved to MCA in the 1980’s. The never-released master tapes apparently wound up in the dumpster, but Naima Coltrane (his first wife) had kept the 7-inch reel that Impulse gave to artists to take home and review. I’ll have more to say about this album next week.

The all-star members of The Black Art Jazz Collective include tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, trumpeterJeremy Pelt, plus James Burton III on trombone, and a rhythm section of Xavier Davis, piano, Vicente Archer, bass, and Johnathan Blake, drums. Their new album, Armor of Pride, is straight-ahead jazz performed by true masters of the genre.

The Haitian voodoo roots group RAM has been around since the 1990’s, but their latest album is only their seventh. The album’s title—August 1791—refers to the start of the Haitian Revolution against France, which began in 1791 and ended over 12 years later on January 1, 1804. The new album observes and celebrates a profound moment in Haitian history. A slave uprising in the French colony, then known as Saint Domingue, drove out the colonizers and Napoleon’s army, gaining independence for the island’s mostly Africa-born citizens.

The DNA of RAM’s rich music reaches back to Haiti’s Yoruba roots in Benin. The band uses both traditional rara horns (rara is a festival music in Haiti) as well as modern instruments for its musical brew. We hear the track “Danmbala Elouwe,” a ceremonial song that goes all the way back to Dahomey, the former name for Benin. Like much music from troubled countries (think Congo and South Africa before apartheid was lifted) the music defies sadness and hopelessness. The New York Times called it “jubilant music to defy grim conditions.”

Members of the Haitian group RAM playing rara horns (Photo courtesy of David Gaar)

I close this week’s show with an old jazz radio sign-off tune, “Swan Blues” by King Pleasure (b. Nathanial Beeks), a vocalese version of Gene Ammons’s classic “Hittin’ the Jug.”

This week marks the end of the on-demand shows that I’ve produced since the inaugural Rhythm Planet show in April 2013. All 269 shows will remain online for your listening pleasure. The Rhythm Planet music blog will continue with a new feature every week.

I want to thank my talented former blog editors Mary Falcone and Camellia Tse, my wonderful show editor Mario Diaz, and RP’s executive producer Ariana Morgenstern. My appreciation also to KCRW’s tireless web team and to KCRW for supporting these music shows for the last 5 years. Last but not least, thank you to the Rhythm Planet audience for listening and for your love of music across genres and borders. It’s been a pleasure to share the music with you through these shows.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 6/29/18

  1. Ray Chen & Made in Berlin / “Satie, Koncz: A New Satiesfaction” / The Golden Age/ Decca
  2. Geoffrey Keezer Trio / “These Three Words” / On My Way To You / MarKeez Records
  3. Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares / “Duo” / Aguas / OTA Records
  4. King Coya / “Tierra De King Coya” / Tierra De King Coya / ZZK Records
  5. Very Be Careful / “La Direccion” / Daisy’s Beauty Salon / Downtown Pijao
  6. Uji / “Alborada (featuring Anicca)” / Alborada / ZZK Records
  7. John Coltrane / “Untitled Original 11386” / Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album / Verve
  8. Black Art Jazz Collective / “Miller Time” / Armor of Pride / HighNote Records
  9. RAM / “Danmbala Elouwe” / August 1791 / Ramhaiti.com
  10. King Pleasure / “Swan Blues” / Moody’s Mood For Love / Blue Note