Kandace Springs: “The Women Who Raised Me”

April 2020

Blue Note B0031597
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Blue Note Records built its stellar reputation on many factors. Francis Wolff’s in-studio photography, Reid Miles’s iconic cover design, and Rudy Van Gelder’s impeccable soundstage all went into the mix.

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Gordon Grdina’s Nomad Trio: "Gordon Grdina’s Nomad Trio"

February 2020

Skirl 44
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In this era of social media dominance, it’s still possible for artists to mature and develop a distinctive voice and musical approach in relative isolation. At least, that’s true in a country as large and regionally self-sufficient as Canada. The proof is in my discovery of Gordon Grdina, a Vancouver-based string player.

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Jimi Hendrix: "Songs for Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts"

January 2020

Legacy/Sony Music 598277
Format: 5 CDs

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Fifty years ago, Jimi Hendrix found himself in a quandary. As he entered the final year of his short life and approached his 27th birthday, he was at a crossroads. For a musician who had been on the road almost constantly since leaving the army in 1962, he was uncharacteristically idle. He didn’t have a single concert between a Harlem benefit show on September 5, 1969, and the first of a two-night/four-set stand at New York’s Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve. For someone whose time in the international spotlight lasted only 1430 days, that 122-day span of concert inactivity represented a massive chunk of time.

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Keith Jarrett: “Munich 2016”

November 2019

ECM 2667/68
Format: 2 CDs

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Sometime around 1970, a young German bassist and record producer named Manfred Eicher sent a letter to American pianist Keith Jarrett, requesting that Jarrett consider making a trio record for Eicher’s nascent ECM Records label. As Eicher recalled it recently for a lengthy DownBeat magazine article in honor of the label’s 50th anniversary, the request was that Jarrett record with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock. Jarrett, two years younger than Eicher, had a different idea. Already well known for his four-year tenure with saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s popular quartet, which included DeJohnette, and having recorded a handful of albums under his own name, the pianist wanted to move in a new direction.

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Bruce Cockburn: "Crowing Ignites"

October 2019

True North TND737
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

If, like me, you grew up in the western annex of Ottawa’s compact urban core, you felt you owned a little piece of Bruce Cockburn, who lived in the area for 18 years. You could recite the names of his early bands: The Flying Circus, Olivus, 3’s a Crowd, and The Children. You got to see him in the tight confines of Le Hibou, the city’s venerable coffeehouse, and you felt a frisson of association when his music caught on worldwide around 1979. If you got to actually rub shoulders with him -- which for me was backstage at Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium in 1980, at the time when he dressed in guerrilla fatigues and a black beret -- you felt like you were hanging with a guy from the neighborhood rather than someone who was about to have an international hit with “Wondering Where the Lions Are” and appear on Saturday Night Live.

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Bill Frisell: "Harmony"

September 2019

Blue Note B0030782-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In several ways, guitarist Bill Frisell is the ultimate Baby Boomer improvising musician. Born in Baltimore in 1951, raised in Denver, Frisell grew up listening to the rich panoply of popular music in the ’50s, fell in love with the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and had his mind blown with the rest of us by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and the other revolutionary electric guitarists of the late ’60s.

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Bruce Springsteen: "Western Stars"

July 2019

Columbia 19075941972
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The summer I turned 14, my father took us on a month-long road trip through the US Midwest, out to the western edge of Montana. Fifty years later, the enduring memories include the early mornings speeding west along Interstate 90 -- the sun rising behind us and Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” ubiquitous on AM radio.

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Various Artists: “Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival”

June 2019

Smithsonian Folkways 40250
Format: 5 CDs

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

It’s not exactly a guilty secret since I’ve shared it with others, but call it a regret-with-reason: I’ve never been to New Orleans. While I regret having never sampled one of the world’s most distinctive cities, I’m not a fan of humidity. And because I already live in a city where the humidex occasionally reaches oppressive levels, I’ve never been drawn to the Crescent City for a vacation.

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Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet: "WHENUFINDITUWILLKNOW"

May 2019

Golden Records MGJCQ 004
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Just as the 1940s and ’50s are considered the most creative era in jazz, the late ’60s and ’70s are seen as the art form’s nadir. Record sales plunged, as buyers turned their attention to rock and singer-songwriters, and bars supplanted live acts with recorded music.

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Van Morrison: "The Healing Game (Deluxe Edition)"

April 2019

Exile/Legacy Recordings 88985428402
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Curmudgeonly and unpredictable, at 73 Van Morrison has developed a late-career reputation that sadly overshadows his early triumphs. Like Bob Dylan, if you only judged him based on the man who shambles onstage and grumbles through an assortment of songs that are not necessarily among his best, you might well wonder why he’s considered one of the greatest singers and songwriters of the last 60 years.

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