September, 2018 Album Picks
My album pic for this month is Oscar Peterson Quartet Night Child on Pablo records 1979 vinyl. This album features Oscar Peterson on acoustic and electric, yes electric piano. More on that later. Rounding out the quartet is the great Joe Pass on guitar, Niels Henning Orsted Pederson on bass and Louie Bellson in drums. So yes, I’ve never heard Oscar play electric piano. The first tune, ” Solar Winds”, finds him chording with reserved subtlety, a beautiful mellow phased shifted sound. I’ve heard him play ballads, but not like this. The sustain seems to make him nurse and savor each chord to the fullest. Ditto on “Soliloquy “, a blues for Doctor John. But never fear, the pyrotechnics are there as well. Amazing dexterity is evident that would make electric stalwarts like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock stand up and take notice.
The sound is quite good. Joe Pass’s guitar is very up front yet tender on “Soliloquy”. Niels bass sound is punchy but not exactly deep on his solo on “Solar Winds”. Not a lot of kick drum till the final funk track ” Teenager”, but the cymbals are crisp on the songs featuring Louie. Oscar does play some beautiful acoustic piano on the title track. Overall, one of the most satisfying Oscar Peterson albums I’ve heard.
My album pick for this month is the self-titled Rickie Lee Jones, on vinyl MoFi MFSL 1-392. Once you get past the summer of 1979 hit “Chuck E.’s in Love”, the album is full of well produced and engaging jazz/rock tunes. With the likes of Steve Gadd on drums, Tom Scott on trumpet, Michael McDonald vocals, Randy Newman on synthesizer, among many other talented musicians, Jones put together an all-star cast for this great album.
13 Shades of Blue:The Best of Mapleshade, Vol.2. I bought this CD many years ago and hadn’t played it in 5 or 6 years. After settling on ROON as my primary streaming software, the number 13 in the title popped this toward the front of my collection. I hit play and WOW, what great blues performances!
And what amazing recordings. This is a compilation from the Mapleshade catalog. I don’t love every song, but they all swing and boogie. This collection should get you up and out of your seat.
The recording sounds live in the best sense. The recording captures the timbre and attack of the instruments and voices are captured with presence. The recording acoustic is captured and reproduced with just the right balance to the music. Find a favorite song and order the CD it is gleaned from.
And, since I missed last month, here is one more:
I play this CD quite often. Flamenco guitar by a master. A complex character, but a master. This is solo flamenco guitar well recorded in a nice space. I think Pierre records in an old plantation house. Quite dynamic. the songs are emotional and played with great passion. But of course, it’s Flamenco.
Sadly, this is not in the Mapleshade catalog anymore. Nor is it on Tidal. But seek out a used CD because this is great music that is well recorded.
Sophia Pfister: model, painter, poet, composer, musician, singer, and personal addresser and mailer of every album she sells. She is one busy lady, so it is no wonder it’s taken her over three years to get her first full-length album out after the release of her 2014 EP. That December 2014 self-titled EP contained just five songs, all original, and released on a limited-edition vinyl record sold directly from Sophia’s apartment in Los Angeles. Although technically, you didn’t have to go to her apartment to buy the album, you could order it through her website. And, if you didn’t have vinyl playback capabilities, you could purchase digital copies of her music on Tidal, and iTunes.
Sophia only records and sells her own material, and though her first EP contained just five songs, those five songs were mastered and recorded exceptionally well. I was, along with many others, hooked while listening to the sound quality that reproduced Sophia’s music and lyrics, which she has described as “sexy, raw, imaginative, and uncomfortably honest.”
But just five songs? Her fans wanted more. Well, more came with that big gap of time, and Sophia’s passage through life shows up in the eight new songs on Birdcage. Some of the grittiness is replaced by a more mature emotional expression and polish in the music and lyrics. Is that a good thing? I think it’s a great thing, not because I like the music on her first EP less, but because this album seems to come from the fruit of the years in between then and now. You can hear the same type of evolution in the music when you listen to the first and second albums by any number of bands, and which album you’ll prefer is up to you. In this case, I prefer them both. Ultimately, I think the new album is more than worth the wait- although I do hope we don’t have to wait this long between every release.
Let me clarify my impressions by saying, if you liked her first EP, I think you’ll love the songs on Birdcage. Ms. Pfister has again constructed an album that sounds great to listen to, not only because of the compositions, but also thanks to some exceptional recording, mastering and mixing, and a superb vinyl press from the folks at Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland. But, don’t wait to place your order from her website (www.sophiapfister.com) as this is a limited-edition pressing and you will not be able to listen/purchase this on Tidal or iTunes. In fact, Sophia told me she has no plans to release this on anything but 180 gm vinyl, though she did say that YouTube is her chosen online platform right now, and somewhere in the future she may sell digital copies of her music directly from her website, using the pay-what-you-want marketing platform. This is the same plan famously employed by Radiohead on their In Rainbows LP, and still used by Zoë Keating for all her recordings- (see my music pick for next month).
You can check out some of the songs from her new LP on YouTube:
And, Sophia with Dave Alvin-