August Music Mix

Banner image: Opium Moon (Photo courtesy of the artists)


This week, we hear an eclectic mix of new releases that have caught my ears plus pay a final tribute to Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko. We begin with a new big band album from Brazilian pianist Antonio Adolfo. Adolfo grew up in a musical family—his mother was a violinist in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra—and started performing professionally by the time he turned seventeen. He studied with renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He’s worked with dozens of top Brazilian stars, including Carlos Lyra, Flora Purim, and Elis Regina. His compositions have been recorded by American musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Earl Klugh, and Dionne Warwick.

We follow with the Rodrigo Romaní Trio, a Spanish group from Galicia, showcasing the Celtic side of Spanish music. The Celts sailed down to Galicia centuries ago and brought their music to the region in North West Spain. The musical style we hear still demonstrates their influence.

Jazz harpist Carol Robbins plays on the big Lyon & Healy pedal harp, and I love her playing. More in the mold of Dorothy Ashby than Alice Coltrane, Carol here is joined by some local jazz pros, with saxophonist Bob Sheppard turning in a nice tenor solo.

Tango and fado wouldn’t seem to have much in common, especially with the distance separating Argentina and Portugal. In the realm of emotions and music’s universal power to churn our feelings, however, the two are definitely kissing cousins. The new album from Daniel Binelli and Pedro H. da Silva is the first time I’ve seen la guitarra Portuguesa paired with the bandoneón, the squeezebox par excellence of tango. Bandoneóns were used in poor rural German churches that couldn’t afford pipe organs, and the instrument ended up traveling to the brothels of Buenos Aires!

Uruguayan singer-songwriter Valeria Matzner was once a grunge artist who followed Nirvana and other Seattle-based bands, but wanted her new album Anima to be soft and tender. She married a Canadian she met at SXSW, and now the Montevideo-born Matzner resides and works in British Columbia. The new album shows another side of her musical personality and I like it.

Okonkolo plays santería devotional music, using the two-headed batá drums to create their sacred Yoruba rhythms. This music came to Cuba from Nigeria and Benin with the slaves, who brought their rich spiritual practices and music with them. Santería and rumba sometimes have lyrics sung not in Spanish but in archaic Yoruba. The album isn’t a traditional santería recording, however, as producer Jacob Plasse has introduced jazz instrumentation and strings. It respects the past but adds something new.

The quartet Opium Moon features the peripatetic violinist Lili Haydn, Iranian santoor master Hamid Saeidi, Israeli bassist Itai Disraeli, and American percussionist M.B. Gordy. The group recently released an eponymous debut album of enchanting music that sounds contemporary but has ancient roots. I have enjoyed Lili Haydn’s shape-shifting solos with many artists over the years. She is comfortable and virtuosic in many styles, and her improvisations are lilting yet powerful.

Jane Antonia Cornish composes soundtracks and an occasional album like this new one, Constellations. Her music is patient, virtuosic, and mesmerizing. One can understand her success with film scores when hearing it, as her minimalist pieces work beautifully with film. The new work is scored for piano, strings, and electronics. I was enchanted by the track “Lux” (Light).

We conclude this week’s playlist with a track from Tomasz Stanko’s 2006 album Lontano. Stanko’s story fascinates me both musically and historically. I wrote an appreciation last week shortly after his death.

Rhythm Planet Playlist 8/14/18

  1. Antonio Adolfo / “Atlantica” / Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica / AAM Music
  2. Rodrigo Romaní Trio / “O Santo Do Demo” / Fios de Ouro No Ár / Altafonte
  3. Carol Robbins (featuring Bob Sheppard) / “Grey River” / Taylor Street / Jazzcats
  4. Daniel Binelli and Pedro H. da Silva / “Oblivión” / Tango Fado Duo / Sorel Classics
  5. Valeria Matzner / “Ilusión” / Anima / Triplet Records
  6. Okonkolo / “Canto Por Obatala” / Cantos / Big Crown Records
  7. Opium Moon / “Gravity = Love” / Opium Moon / Be Why Music
  8. Jane Antonia Cornish / “Lux” / Constellations / Jane Antonia Cornish
  9. Tomasz Stanko Quartet / “Kattorna” / Lontano / ECM Records