Nordost Playlist – October 2020

Over the past few months, Nordost  has been happy that we can continue to make our time spent at home a little more bearable with the gift of great music. Our products aim to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. Like you, we here at Nordost are music lovers. Each one of us has our own style… we listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone. 

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this October.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  | SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ


  1. Ghost Dance—Patti Smith—Easter
  2. How Do You Sleep—Sam Smith—How Do You Sleep
  3. Season of the Witch—Donovan—Sunshine Superman
  4. Avratz—Infected Mushroom—Converting Vegetarians
  5. Fancy Man—Devendra Banhart—Ape in Pink Marble
  6. A Whiter Shade of Pale—Annie Lennox—Medusa
  7. You Were Meant For Me—Jewel—Pieces Of You
  8. Me x 7—Alicia Keys—Alicia
  9. Autumn In New York—Billie Holiday—Recital
  10. My Lady’s On Fire—Ty Segall—Freedom’s Goblin

Nordost Playlist – September 2020

Over the past few months, Nordost  has been happy that we can continue to make our time spent at home a little more bearable with the gift of great music. Our products aim to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. Like you, we here at Nordost are music lovers. Each one of us has our own style… we listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone. 

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this September.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  | SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ


  1. Birds—Dominique Fils-Aimé—Nameless 
  2. One Fine Day—David Byrne—Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
  3. Waving, Smiling—Angel Olsen—Whole New Mess 
  4. Lo/Hi—The Black Keys—“Let’s Rock”
  5. The Mummers’ Dance—Loreena McKennitt—The Book Of Secrets 
  6. Wildflowers—Tom Petty—Wildflowers 
  7. Uninvited—Mallrat—Uninvited 
  8. Fóld fær andlit—Hildur Guðnadóttir—Fólk fær andlit
  9. Rainbow—Kacey Musgraves—Golden Hour
  10. Oxbow—Waxahatchee—Saint Cloud

Nelson Brill highlights the joys of home listening

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Nelson looks at different ways that music lovers can continue to see live shows virtually and how they can further their at-home listening experience by using Nordost’s Blue Heaven Headphone Cable! 


JOYS OF HOME LISTENING CONTINUE – NEW RECORDINGS TO SAVOR

By Nelson Brill August 9, 2020

Getting lost in the rejuvenation that home listening brings, (taking time to listen without interruption to one’s favorite music on a quality high-end audio system) is a special gift in these tough and challenging times. I’ve been enjoying my time listening to the new reference high-end audio system that I reviewed last month (consisting of the Goldmund Telos 590 Integrated Amplifier partnered with Seidenton STB Studio Allnico loudspeakers and an Ensemble Dirondo CD player). I’ve also been listening to my headphone system to catch all of the terrific online concerts to benefit musicians and arts organizations worldwide.

IMPROVE YOUR HEADPHONE SOUND:
If you enjoy listening to headphones, (either through a computer or through a dedicated headphone amplifier), here’s a simple, upgrade tip: think about swapping out that generic headphone cable and invest in a quality headphone cable. I highly recommend Nordost’s Blue Heaven headphone cable, (http://www.nordost.com); $350 per 1.25 meter). Switching out the generic cable that came with my Sennheiser HD650 headphones for the Blue Heaven cable, I heard instant sonic improvements: a much quieter noise floor (that allowed more tactile and inner details of music to emerge); an overall improved tonal balance; an airier and wider stereo image and a greater coherency to the HD 650’s limited mid bass and upper bass. The Blue Heaven headphone cable took my modest HD 650’s to a new level of enjoyment and immersion – more toe-tapping and less listener fatigue (an important consideration when wearing even the best quality headphones for long periods).

ONLINE MUSIC RICHES:
So grab a pair of good quality headphones and equip them with a quality headphone cable like Nordost’s Blue Heaven and get more enjoyment out of all the vital music online to support musicians, local venues and arts organizations. Here are some upcoming online events that I will be checking out on my headphone rig:

Wolfgang’s

-A celebration of the music of Jerry Garcia (on the 25th anniversary of his passing), to benefit the Rex Foundation, an organization that the Grateful Dead and friends started in 1983 to support local arts, science and educational organizations. [http://www.dazebetween.com];

-Weekly concerts, dance performances and artist conversations presented by Arts For Art as part of their ongoing “Crisis Fund Benefit” [http://www.artsforart.org];

Ellis Marsalis Jr. – North Country Public Radio

-A series of concerts presented by irrepressible trombonist and humanist, Delfeayo Marsalis, as he organizes a new online benefit, (named after his late father, Ellis Marsalis Jr.), to help sustain New Orlean’s rich culture and its musicians [http://www.KNOMA.org];

-A series of weekly Sunday concerts to support the international music and art scene in vibrant Provincetown, MA. [www.ptownmusic.com];

-Online concerts to benefit local music venues such as the weekly online jazz concerts presented by the venerable jazz club, Village Vanguard [www.villagevanguard.com] or the terrific weekly online listening sessions presented by Newvelle Records in support of their artists and their sterling recordings [www.newvelle-records.com);

Brittanica

-Online performances to help support local orchestras like the inspiring online Tanglewood Festival presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. [www.tanglewood.org]. The recent Tanglewood Gala featured a moving online tribute to the legendary violinist, Isaac Stern, with animated performances and conversations with many musicians touched by Stern’s genius and humanity. Catch it again if you can online – along with all the other weekly concerts and classes from the new Tanglewood Learning Institute– all to benefit the BSO’s vital activities and music.

NEW CD RECORDINGS TO SAVOR:
Back in the listening room, here’s a new batch of audiophile quality CD’s that have been in heavy rotation for their smart musicianship, fresh sounds and superb recording qualities –all to lift our spirits!

First up is a CD from a trumpet maestro and great teacher who died recently and will be sorely missed: Wallace Roney. Roney’s 2019 Blue Dawn – Blue Nights [HighNote Records] is a gem of a recording powered by Roney’s mighty trumpet and his gift for bringing together young talent to feed off his exuberance. The opening number, “Bookendz”, is a great example: elemental bass and drums propel a bracing trumpet solo from Roney (his stippled bursts crackling with heat) along with bold solos from pianist Oscar Williams II (spinning carefree, light runs) and reedman Emilio Modeste (ranging with glee on his expressive soprano sax). Legendary drummer Lenny White contributes his dashing propulsion on his own tune, “Wolfbane”, his protean drums igniting a piercing Roney solo and another bluesy frolic from Modeste on his tenor sax. On other numbers, Roney’s talented nephew, drummer Kojo Odu Roney, brings his fresh energy to his drum kit where his cymbal/snare combinations resound with spacious, airy flow that foster the band’s pulsing groove and spunk.

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In addition to propulsive nuggets like a jostling version of Dave Liebman’s “New Breed” (sweet and tart on Roney’s muted trumpet) and a frenetic “Venus Rising” with the band firing on all swinging cylinders, Roney and his young lions also dig deep into several heartfelt ballads. The softly caressed “Why Should There Be Stars” features Roney’s plaintive meditations where he utilizes silence between his notes as effectively as his crisp, clarion calls.

Getty Image: Wallace Roney

Roney’s shining trumpet is cushioned in Paul Cuffari’s warm bass lines (coherent to their purple depths) and Williams’ lightly patterned piano runs that resemble the spinning of a delicate spider’s web. All of these fresh sounds and grooves are captured in a wide-open and layered soundstage recorded in legendary Van Gelder Studio by Maureen Sickler and her team along with David Darlington’s talented mastering. Blue Dawn-Blue Nights is Roney’s parting gift: his trumpet keen and charging ahead (into posterity) with steadfast passion and playful joy, his encouragement of young talent insuring the future of the music.

Speaking of playful joy, there’s a lot of joy and sustenance to be discovered within the timeless songs of composers Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe, an exemplary team that was equally at home writing for Broadway or for the jazz stage. Many of their timeless songs have now been re-imagined by an impeccable jazz band led by the vivacious woodwind maestro, Adrian Cunningham on his new CD, Adrian Cunningham & His Friends Play Lerner And Loewe [Arbor Records, ARCD 19470]. Cunningham is joined by reveling companions-pianist Fred Hersch, bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson- to deliver this garland of Lerner and Loewe songs teeming with swing and soul.

TriStateJazz.org

Cunningham leads with a supremely assured presence. He shifts effortlessly between his magnetic clarinet, sax and flute to mine the heart of each tune with a taste for slippery adventure that always returns to the irresistible pulse of these great melodies. Hersch, joined by his two trusted journeymen, Hebert and McPherson, is also an inspired force. It is a joy to listen to him at his keyboard as he unspools gossamer runs, melodic twists and gusts of low notes. Arbor Records’ Rachael Domber and her recording team bring their careful craft to capture the full harmonic body of Hersch’s piano, (a rare recording feat), the breathy flights of Cunningham on his woodwinds and all the crackling, alive drama in this zestful session.

Kingsplace.uk

Take a listen to the intoxicating duet between Cunningham and Hersch on their beautifully woven, “The Heather On The Hill”, or to the band’s “I Talk To The Trees” for music that sings with sultry, melodic spirit. Let this impeccable band swing you away on their arrangements of “I Could Have Danced All Night”; “I Was Born Under A Wandering Star” and “They Call The Wind Maria” – all graciously swinging gems highlighted by the comic slurs and growls from Wycliffe Gordon’s trombone (his embouchure captured tactile and slurry) or the brazen glow of Randy Brecker’s trumpet. The finale, “Brigadoon”, lands on tender ground easing us into another day with the curvaceous dignity of Cunningham’s glowing sax, Hersch’s soft keyboard caresses and the combination of McPherson’s circular brushes on snare joining Hebert’s bass lines, deep and embracing. This music is all about delivering the life-affirming spirit and wonder of Lerner and Loewe’s irresistible creations; it is a bundle of playful joy from start to finish.

SusanTobocman.com

It is also a treat to explore the music from a vocalist and composer who clearly treasures the stellar companionship of her band as much as her own vocal explorations. Singer, arranger and composer Susan Tobocman has released a new CD, Touch & Go” [Soliterra Records; www.susantobocman.com] and exploring all if its wistful and swinging terrain is a joy on a quality audio system. From the opening deep bass/piano rumba driving Tobocman’s arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” to the swerving grooves of Tobocman’s original, “Make Believe”, there is fresh adventure with Tobocman’s improvisory playfulness and the superb companionship of her band: keyboardist Henry Hey (a creative presence throughout, unpredictable and fresh); guitarist Pete McCann (a marvel on his cool and vibrant strings); saxophonist Joel Frahm (delivering inspired grooves and churning, soulful heat); Matt Pavolka on his rich and vibrant bass; Dave Eggar on his radiant cello and Michael Sarin holding it all down with his fluid, propulsive engine. Tobocman’s vocals, lithe and expressive, float above this swashbuckling musical drama, her voice clarion and adventurous ensnaring the essence of each song with spunk and charm.

Tobocman is also a talented composer and arranger. Her original instrumentals on Touch & Go are a verdant landscape for her talented band to linger and stretch out. The band soaks up every chance to explore the creative nooks of Tobocman’s smart arrangements as on her swinging arrangement of “You Only Live Twice”, (taking the James Bond theme into rollicking new territory) or on her “I Could Get Used To This”, a bluesy walk on the pump of Frahm’s sax, Pavolka’s dapper bass and Sarin’s crisp cymbal hits. Her two delectable arrangements of the Beatles’ classic, “Help!” capture the beauty and verve of her writing. The first version is a quiet, cello-deep pool of soul with Tobocman’s stirring vocals lithe and restless. Her second version closes the album with fiery energy, power chords and vocal molten heat from this dynamic band – always looking for the next fresh moment to evolve in Tobocman’s creations.

Turning to a global canvas of shape-shifting beauty, we find the creation of dynamic pianist, composer and arranger, Ryan Cohan, who leads a stellar big band joined by the Kaia String Quartet in performance of his original compositions on the CD, Originations [Origin Records; www.originarts.com]. This is music of open-eared exploration with a wide-open musical terrain where Arab melodies and rhythms meld with jazz and classical roots to inspire and beguile. The music allows capacious space for each musician to delight in their own instrument’s colors and textures to transform Cohan’s globe-spanning creation. The superb recording captures all of the diverse energy and dynamic contrasts in Cohan’s music with an up-front, crisp presence that delivers all the airy timbres and textures of this unique collective.

Ryan Cohan and Band – Steptempest

Each chapter of Originations contains surprising gifts of rhythmic beauty and melodic grace. Cohan’s inventions include soft shimmering ballads, such as his willowy “Heart,” propulsive and inviting on its dipping string caresses and the soaring colors of Tito Carrillo’s flugelhorn. The ensemble can also dance and soar, as on Cohan’s playful “Sabra” that swarms with staccato string lightness and teeming percussion, with Geof Bradfield’s pungent bass clarinet weaving its breathy, serpentine drama. “The Hours Before Dawn” evolves slowly on tremulous strings, plucky piano and the deep throb of bass clarinet alongside Michael Raynor and Omar Musfi’s rousing percussion. The prickly “Imaginary Lines” moves in quick pulses with John Wojciechowski’s clarinet nestled in Carrillo’s crisp trumpet calls. The adventure concludes with Cohan’s magnetic centerpiece, “Essence”, where a beautiful calm is followed by a dashing, dancing riot of instrumental colors. Here is a coiled blast of the blues, a pulse of a rhumba and a dash of bebop (in Wojciechowski’s playful flute solo) all dancing to Cohan’s sprawling vision. Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian – there are no borders to Cohan’s music: optimistic, rambunctious and flowing in its boundless quest for unity, light and dance.

The verve and beauty of Cohan’s music leads me to recommend one final CD in this latest roundup of audiophile quality recordings. This new classical gem is from another gifted composer, Jonathan Leshnoff, in his delectable exploration of the unique sounds created when a solo clarinet and bassoon join forces with a sparkling orchestra. Leshnoff’s Concerto For Clarinet and Bassoon is performed by the venerable Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by their Music Director, Manfred Honeck, and recorded on a new hybrid CD/SACD in sterling fashion by the recording team of Sound/Mirror in association with the Fresh! label of Reference Recordings [www.referencerecordings.com].

This recording gem (like so many other Reference Recordings) is a superlative example of how careful recording can bring the images of a full orchestra to vital life on a quality high-end audio system. Accompanying the notes to the recording, there is a photo of the Pittsburgh Orchestra on the stage of the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh. When one listens to this recording on a quality high end audio system, (like on the Goldmund, Seidenton, Ensemble audio system), each section of the orchestra is imaged precisely in proper position and height as they are pictured in their group photo. One can distinctly hear instruments layered in front or behind each other- a rare feat of recording. There is delight in hearing those clarion trumpets (positioned on low risers on the far-right of the Heinz stage) in all their regal glory. This is the essence of the audiophile thrill: to listen at home and re-create, as close as possible, the immersive experience of a live concert event.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Leshnoff’s Concerto For Clarinet and Bassoon, with this performance’s reveling soloists, clarinetist Michael Rusinek and bassoonist Nancy Goeres, is a questing piece taking full advantage of the spikey-sweet sounds of clarinet and bassoon in musical dialogue with a kinetic orchestra. Its three short movements offer trim, airy inventions that combine skittering melodies and runs (Leshnoff loves the sound of echoing ascending riffs that have clarinet and bassoon leaping in supple woody glow), with moments of soulful serenity. Leshnoff’s creation reminds me of the sunny and soulful music of another great American composer, Aaron Copland. I hear in Leshnoff’s inviting music elements of Copland’s open-hearted lyricism and an adventurous play with instrumental colors. Leshnoff leads his intrepid bassoon and clarinet creation into sprite new territory that both soothes the spirit and challenges the ear.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette


Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony also bring an immersive combination of soul and litheness to their performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. This galloping and deeply moving piece sounds fresh and alive in the handsome timbres of the Pittsburgh’s string sections and in the bombastic crispness of the brass and horn sections that light up Heinz Hall with their regal, airy calls. Turn the volume up (with Reference Recordings their natural recording levels allow for this without compression), and hear how the Pittsburgh and Honeck mine each of Tchaikovsky’s stirring moments with deliberation and a great feel for momentum and pacing. Every nook and cranny of this majestic music is deeply explored in this performance. Highlights are many and include the beauty of the lithe curlicue motifs passed amongst the woodwinds in the First Movement; the dancing, resonant deep string pulses of the Second Movement and the Final Movement’s galloping rush of brass fury. Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece still delivers goose bumps and spiritual uplift as proven in this new Fresh! Pittsburgh Symphony recording that renews our spirits (bathed in its final trumpeting glory) for another day.


You can read more of Nelson’s concert reviews at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.


Nordost Playlist – August 2020

Over the past few months, Nordost  has been happy that we can continue to make our time spent at home a little more bearable with the gift of great music. Our products aim to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. Like you, we here at Nordost are music lovers. Each one of us has our own style… we listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone. 

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this August.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ


  1. Short And Sweet — Brittany Howard — Jamie 
  2. MS — Alt-J — An Awesome Wave 
  3. Down in Mexico — The Coasters — The Best of the Best (Remastered) 
  4. Save Me — Aimee Mann — Magnolia 
  5. Walking On The Moon (Walking on the Dub) — DubXanne — The Police In Dub
  6. Strawberry Letter 23 — The Brothers Johnson — Right On Time 
  7. The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove — Dead Can Dance — Into The Labyrinth 
  8. Brown Eyed Lover — Allen Stone — Building Balance 
  9. Just Don’t Talk About It — Rosanne Cash — 10 Song Demo
  10. Lucy — Jay Som — Soccer Mommy & Friends Single Series, Vol. 1: Jay Som

Nordost Playlist – July 2020

Over the past few months, Nordost  has been happy that we can continue to make our time spent at home a little more bearable with the gift of great music. Our products aim to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. Like you, we here at Nordost are music lovers. Each one of us has our own style… we listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone. 

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this July.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ


  1. Lazarus—Porcupine Tree—Deadwing
  2. I’m Still Here – From “Pose”—Pose Cast, Patti LuPone—I’m Still Here
  3. Darkest Hour of the Night—Ash—Teenage Wildlife: 25 Years of Ash
  4. No Glory in the West—Orville Peck—No Glory in the West
  5. Everybody’s Gotta Live—Love—Reel to Real
  6. Gymnopédie No. 1—Erik Satie, Philippe Entremont—Erik Satie & Friends
  7. The World of Tomorrow—Komputer—The World of Tomorrow
  8. Don’t Let the Old Man In—Willie Nelson—First Rose of Spring
  9. RADIO—Rammstein—Radio
  10. Djougou Toro—Volta Jazz—Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta

Nordost Playlist – May 2020

It seems like ages ago that we were traveling around the world, visiting our friends and business partners, and educating end users about the effects that our products have on sound systems. In order to demonstrate these products, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort systems and accessories. While we might not be able to use our music for demos at the moment, we find that music means more to us than ever. We wanted to share some of the tracks that we have been playing to get us through these wild times, and hope that they bring you enjoyment and help you pass the time. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but we hope that there’s something for everyone.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this May.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ


  1. Clint Eastwood—Freedom Fry—Rio Grande
  2. Sharing The Night Together—Dr. Hook—Pleasure & Pain
  3. This Town—Jack Broadbent—Moonshine Blue
  4. Invincible—TOOL—Fear Inoculum
  5. The Wind That Shakes the Barley—Dead Can Dance—Into The Labyrinth
  6. Hopopono—GoGo Penguin—v2.0
  7. Everyday I write The Book—Elvis Costello & The Attractions—Punch The Clock
  8. Are U gonna tell her? (feat. Mc Zaac)—Tove Lo, Mc Zaac—Sunshine Kitty
  9. Mr. Harris—Aimee Mann—Whatever
  10. Your Hand In Mine—Explosions In The Sky—The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

Nelson Brill Supports Musicians from Home

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Nelson looks at different ways that music lovers can support artists during this difficult time, from virtual concerts, to support funds, to listening at home.


NEW JAZZ RECORDINGS TO SAVOR- PART 1: WOMEN VOCALISTS TAKE CENTER STAGE

By Nelson Brill         March 26, 2020 

Best wishes to all friends and musical companions around the world (wherever bostonconcertreviews reaches!) for good health, strength and restorative power in these challenging times with the coronavirus. The support of the Arts will go on and people are finding creative ways to make that happen. I encourage checking in with your favorite artists’ websites about their online concerts. For instance, jazz pianist Fred Hersch will be offering a daily dose of joyful music from his piano in his online mini-concert series (see his Facebook site) and the rocking Tedeschi Trucks Band will be offering broadcasts of their recent live performances (see their Twitter feed). Just announced is an online festival of 28 performances by artists including Chick Corea, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Becca Stevens and many more. The official website for the online festival is: www.livefromourlivingrooms.com.

Many online concerts will have virtual “tip jars” (through Paypal and other services) to support the performers. Here in Boston, music schools like New England Conservatory (www.necmusic.edu) and Berklee College of Music (www.berklee.edu) are establishing online funds to support their students and local music venues, such as the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, MA. (www.passim.org/pearfund/) have established funds to support local musicians in need. If you are able to give, I urge you to support these funds and online concerts to support the music and the artists in these tough times.

The current listening room at Bostonconcertreviews with new components (from Goldmund and Ensemble Audio) and loudspeaker system (Seidenton) all from AudioArts of NYC (www.audioartsnyc.com) for future review!

Listening at home to recordings on a quality audio system is another great way to support the artists (and your independent audio dealers!) and get lost in the positive vibes of music. With this in mind, I’ll offer reviews of some new audiophile quality recordings that have been in heavy rotation here in the listening room for your exploration and pleasure. We start with a roundup of new women jazz vocalists whose music is sure to bring spiritual uplift!

At a concert held in Boston on March 6th at the Berklee Performance Center (“BPC”), presented by treasured local non-profit arts organization, GlobalArtsLive (support at: www.globalartslive.org), I heard an astonishing young Cuban vocalist, Yilian Canizares, in her first American concert tour. Canizares performed alongside her two stellar countrymen: the sparkling pianist, Omar Sosa, and the feisty percussionist, Gustavo Ovalles.

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Their spectacular GlobalArtsLive concert teemed with boundless playfulness and spirit. Canizares presided over the band’s enveloping musical drama with her joyful dancing presence and her stunning vocals elegant and lithe as a warm breeze. Her voice was a rich vessel of expression that leapt from her soft pitter-patter of percussive scat (in dashing duet with Sosa’s piano banter) and her easy-flowing soars, supple and air-born. Her dramatic violin was a perfect foil for her vocal splendor. She produced delectable airy plucks on her instrument (to accompany her light scatting) or deeply bowed her strings to propel the regal glow of her lowest vocals, poignant and powerful. Her moving tribute to the Yoruba goddess, Oshun, (protector of women and water) was an inspired example of how she completely inhabited the world of her songs. This particular tribute ended dramatically with Canizares sitting on the floor of the stage, with head bowed, in a meditative moment that combined her whispered vocals with the lightest of violin quivers – culminating in a wisp of gentle sounds into silence.

Canizares and her sparkling partners focused their performance on songs taken from their new recording, Aguas [OTA Records], a beautiful recording that captures the tensile strength and playful spirit of these consummate musicians in flight. Joining Canizares’ irresistible vocal and string inventions on Aguas is Sosa’s ever-adventurous spirit on his piano and electric keyboard.

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Sosa has this magnetic gift where he can combine effortless dance and swing on his keyboards and electronics in astonishing variety (global rhythms just seem to flow through his blood!) with the ability to interweave those rich rhythms and patterns into buoyant melodies that he unspools within his dramatic flourishes and velvety runs. He can pounce on a Cuban danzon with a blast of gleeful chords (rising from his piano chair in delight) or he can transfix with a quiet unfurl of twinkling high piano notes that arch upwards in glittering, animated spirit.

Ovalles’ tangy inventiveness on his drum kit (including his thunderous Bata drums) is also a beauty to behold, both on Aguas as well as in live performance. Towards the end of their GlobalArtsLive concert at the BPC, Ovalles launched into an extended musical dialogue with Sosa. He first played a kinetic maracas solo (in which he shook every limb to wring out his bursts of crackling sounds) and then sat down on the stage floor to play a group of large wooden pipes, coaxing the most unusual resonant sounds and thrums in his call-and-response with Sosa’s light bursts of piano notes (with Sosa grinning in delight). Canizares’ regal voice floated effortlessly above all this delectable musical action. She channeled the fresh sounds of her partners into her dancing violin and sweet vocal frolic –all with effortless grace, freedom and open-mindedness.

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Another luminous singer is Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, who appeared in a rare recital on November 7th at New England Conservatory (“NEC”), joined by students in the NEC Jazz Studies and Jazz Orchestra programs. Standing in front of her microphone in intimate Brown Hall (with a capacity audience leaning- in to catch every vocal caress), Souza sang with sparkling brio. Her dulcet vocals cascaded with creative runs and fluid soars. Guitarist Andres Orco-Zerpa, pianist Moshe Elmakias and bassist Andrew Schiller were her perfect partners as they nestled Souza’s vocals in a quiet swirl of bright colors and punctual rhythms. On Maria Schneider’s fanciful creation “Choro Dancado” (taken from Schneider’s Grammy awarded 2004 album, Concert In The Garden [Artistshare], (an album also recently inducted into the National Recording Registry with Schneider now the first female jazz composer to have a record in the Registry), Souza and the NEC Jazz Orchestra delivered all the buoyant dance of Schneider’s sunny piece with Souza soaring in light word-play above the Orchestra’s tight grooves and bright solos.

Another highlight from this recital was Souza’s elegant duet with guitarist Orco-Zerpa on Marco Pereira’s “Dona Lu”. Pereira is an esteemed Brazilian guitarist and composer who also appears on Souza’s recording, Brazilian Duos [Sunnyside Records]. On this gem, Pereira, along with two other gifted guitarists – Romero Lubamba and Walter Santos (Souza’s father) – take turns in joining Souza in duets of zestful concoctions. The superb recording captures Souza’s vocal beauty in crisp and tactile presence lighting up a warm, airy acoustic. Her great feel for rhythm and swing (finding those interstitial pauses at just the right moments in her songs) is jubilant as her voice dances in and around the nimble strings of her three spirited partners. For instance, on her duet with Lubambo on their sassy version of “Pra Que Discutir Con Madame”, Souza’s swooping vocals nestle perfectly within the embrace of Lubambo’s warm, playful strings.

Also, do try and catch Souza’e ethereal vocals on another audiophile gem, the magnetic recording by saxophonist Tim Reis and his marvelous cast of performers on his The Rolling Stones Project [Concord Records]. Souza joins in a Latin-tinged version of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” that is as fresh as it is boldly adventurous. The dynamic presence of this entire recording is not to be missed.

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Another vocalist who effortlessly combines vocal beauty, power and sass into an irresistible toe-tapping stew is vocalist Catherine Russell. On her new recording, Alone Together [Dot Time Records], she and her tight band romp through an inspired set of early twentieth century classic tunes with panache and impeccable chops.

Russell’s voice is a splendid instrument of soulful invention. She moves elegantly from deep burnished tones (on her slow-brewing, grooving blues) to sassy raw vitality on her up-tempo, big band thrillers. She forms her words with gracious warmth and flow and always looks to capture the radiance or untapped kernel of emotion in every song. Take a listen to the opening title track (with its carousing vocals, brass and piano soloing) or Russell’s take on Louis Jordan’s classic tune, “Early In The Morning”, a greasy slow turn of blues heaven in her assured vocal grasp. The recording quality is superb with Russell and her band’s images natural and crisply defined in a layered soundstage (with only a touch of artificiality to their compartmentalized spacing). The music breathes carefree and flowing as Russell commands the stage with her striking vocal charisma partnered with her band’s glittering swagger and swing.

For more joyful vocals brimming with tight band marvels, look no further than the new audiophile gem from ebullient vocalist, Lyn Stanley, and her band, the Jazz Mavericks, on their direct-to-disc London With A Twist – Live At Bernie’s [www.lynstanley.com]. This tribute to the legendary singer Julie London is a gem of musical inventiveness and recording prowess. It is one of the best recordings of a jazz group that you can hear: a group of stellar musicians communing on great material and channeling their keen synergy into a live session recorded without any edits or electronic alterations. The session, (done without any pre-conceived arrangements, just chord charts to guide the band in their creative adventures) is available on a hybrid SACD (containing DSD layers from a “needle drop” of the direct-to-disc test; a DSD layer from the reel-to-reel of the live recording and a standard CD layer) and on a gorgeously presented LP. The live recording was made at legendary Bernie Grundman’s studio with engineer Allen Sides and his expert team at the controls (with Grundman doing the disc mastering). A music lover’s dream, the recording (in each of its formats) delivers a reach-out-and-touch tactile presence that is astounding. Here also is the airy presence of the recording space, the natural images of the band and a dynamic aliveness that is captivating in such details as the resonant punch of congas; the metallic shimmer of light cymbals; the full harmonic body of a piano and those lingering smokey last whispers of “Bye-Bye!” to end Stanley’s grooving version of “Bye Bye Blackbird”.

Each tune on this remarkable album is mined by the spontaneous energy and vocal caresses of Stanley. Her vocal styling embraces a natural pacing and unforced swing that warmly invites a listen into every creative swoop and turn of her creative phrasing. Stanley completely inhabits a slow rumba with her breathy fluidity (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”); takes a wistful ballad into her supple meanders (“Body and Soul”) or ratchets-up the groove on her sassy frolics (“Route 66” and “Goody Goody”). Her tight band is always in stride with her sense of adventure. Guitarist John Chiodini’s golden hues (firing away on up-tempo arrangements like “In The Still Of The Night” or softly caressing on “Blue Moon”) are beautiful to follow while pianists Otmaro Ruiz and Mike Lang’s soft twinkles of chords are perfect colors for Stanley’s vocals to linger in. The rhythm section of bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Aaron Serfaty and percussionist Luis Conte stay solidly in the pocket all session long. Check out their zestful flow on “Let There Be You”- a toe-tapping joy ride pungently rendered on this stunningly present recording completed in one delectable take.

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And speaking of zest and creative flights of fancy, I leave this installment of women jazz vocalist recordings with mention of a brilliant musical partnership now revealed for the first time on disc: the legendary pianist Ran Blake and his phenomenal vocal partner Jeanne Lee [1939-2000] on their duet recordings from 1966 and 1967 now released on The Newest Sound You Never Heard [A-Side Records; ranblake.com; necmusic.edu].

This beautiful recording documents this special moment in music history when the inventive Blake, (prickly and penetrating on his keys), found a partner of similar venturesome spirit in Lee whose voice is a vehicle of luminous beauty and questing spirit. It is a joy to sit down and listen to this disc (delivering a front row seat to this intimate, airy session) and be invited into the fresh musical world of these two eloquent artists. They take inspiration from an eclectic source of songs from Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, amongst many others. Their inventions are whimsical creations: tart and sweet or gospel rich or soulfully tender. Lee’s vocal quality is poignant and playful. Her tone flutters in light, dewy beauty or in deep bluesy purples. Their magical synergy and music-making is just what we need in these times: restoration of our spirit through the glory of free-flowing musical dialogue that is energizing, boundless and healing.

Jeanne Lee – Elaine Mitchener photo

You can read more of Nelson’s concert reviews at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.


Time to enjoy our music! – Home systems from the Nordost team

The past few weeks seem both simultaneously a whirlwind and frozen in time. While the situation outside is changing by the day, if not by the hour, those of us who are stuck inside have no choice but to deal with the monotony that comes with isolation. Practicing social distancing is nothing if not tedious. To cope with the new normal, some people try to maintain a regimented routine, others binge a show, play games with family, arrange virtual meet-ups with friends, take daily walks—all in the pursuance of normalcy, entertainment, comfort. 

As self-proclaimed audiophiles and music-lovers, we are luckier than most. We know what makes us happy and what calms our nerves. Not only that, but our hobby seems to have been designed specifically for the situation we now find ourselves in. We have been “stockpiling” gear, and curating our perfect systems for years, and now (albeit under terrible circumstances) we have all the time in the world to enjoy what we have made. Now is the time to sit back, relax, and listen to our music. 

Nordost is a company made up of music lovers, and we are all excited to put some good hours in on our systems. We thought it would be fun to show you how we’re listening while cooped up at home, and we would love to see where you are enjoying your music too. Feel free to share pictures of your system in action!

I think we can all agree, there are worse places to be forced to spend time than in front of a sound system. Today, let’s all be thankful for the music, and the systems that allow us to enjoy it so beautifully!

Nelson Brill takes us to the blues club

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Nelson takes us to three spectacular blues concerts around the Boston area, featuring artists Buddy Guy, Kingfish, and Peter Parcek.


TAKE ME TO THE BLUES CLUB – PART 1

By Nelson Brill         December 22, 2019  

CHICAGO – JUNE 10: Christone Kingfish Ingram performs on stage at The Chicago Blues Festival on June 10, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois, United States. (Photo by James Fraher/Redferns)

The blues continue to shake, rattle and roll in the hands of old masters and young seismic players. It is always a joy to get out to hear live blues and support a local blues club or theatre. I had the great fortune, on October 17th, to catch the electrifying master of Chicago blues, Buddy Guy (82 years young!), and his band perform at the beautiful Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA., (the “Cabot”; http://www.thecabot.org). The newly-restored Cabot is one of those music venue gems in our region that offers a beautiful historic space, an inviting community feel and a staff that clearly cares about Good Sound (as exemplified at this concert where the music, no matter how loud and blustery, was heard crisp and coherent).

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Buddy Guy, always the consummate showman, partnered with his tight- knit band to put on a memorable show at the Cabot. On his opening “Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues!” Guy bounded onto the stage with great flourish and excitement, his voice ageless and strong: full of baritone heat and his soulful treble yelps that flutter with expressive yearning or comic relief. His electric guitar strutted in common vehicle with his voice: a searing, dancing vehicle of groove.

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Guy strikes his guitar strings with stinging perfection, each note isolated and crisp, sent on its way by the dramatic flick of his wrist outwards (like sparks sent into a night sky). He can also create big resonant heat by playfully gyrating his hips or belly against his guitar body in his prance of shimmer and shake. At one point in this concert, during Guy’s radiant extended version of his soulful ballad, “It Feels Like Rain,” Guy swiped a towel against his hotly amplified guitar strings and danced to its whoosh of colors – all the while smiling broadly (with his mischievous, playful grin).

Guy’s grooving band kept pace with him all night, barreling through such locomotive Chicago blues classics as Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” and Muddy Water’s “She’s 19 Years Old”. Guitarist Ric Hall ignited “Hoochie Coochie Man” with a dynamic solo shimmering with quick trills contrasted with a sliding flurry of colors up and down his guitar. Keyboardist Marty Sammon complimented all of Guy’s greasy, flowing action with his own keyboard prances, highlighted on a classic Bobby Rush song where he twinkled light bluesy chords contrasted with his rustling runs.

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All this drama was tethered down by punctual bass and drum, highlighted by drummer Tom Hambridge’s delivery of precise thunder to stoke the band. Hambridge, (who has produced many a great blues album, including several of Guy’s) opened the concert with his own set, accompanied by keyboardist Sammon. Singing next to a small drum kit, Hambridge delivered a garland of bluesy tunes, including his smart and comic tune, “Upside of Lonely”, with Sammon’s barrelhouse runs rippling creatively under the current of Hambridge’s tight cymbal and snare.

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Guy was also joined on stage by one of his young protégés: guitarist and singer Quinn Sullivan of New Bedford, MA., who joined Guy in a closing rollicking jam. The two guitarists leapt in glowing rapport to B.B. King’s “Five Long Years” with Sullivan delivering a gust of blistering runs and searing high holds while Guy focused on a bright parade of stinging notes, prickly and animated. Smiling and joking as they played, the two guitarists stood shoulder to shoulder to nestle in their colorful rumbles while the capacity audience hollered and swayed along to the blistering grooves.

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Guy has mentored and inspired countless young guitar slingers, like Boston-based Sullivan (http://www.quinnsullivanmusic.com) and another young standout blues guitarist from Boston, Tyler Morris (http://www.tylerdmorris.com). Another of Guy’s notable young protégés is Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, hailing from Clarksdale, Mississippi.

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A few years ago, I took a trip with a buddy to the Delta to travel the historic Blues Trail (a highly recommended trip for any blues fan – see http://www.msbluestrail.org), and one of the stops along the Blues Trail is the historic town of Clarksdale. There we met a local blues harp legend, Deak Harp (http://www.deakharp.com; who owns a small music store in town) and Deak told us to stay around to attend a concert by Kingfish at the legendary Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale, one of the few remaining juke joints in the Delta. We returned that night to hear Kingfish in the intimate and welcoming Red’s, surrounded by members of his family, friends and other blues fans (who had traveled around the globe to experience the Red’s Lounge magic). I still recall how Kingfish took over the small stage at Red’s, leading a tight band in blistering How’lin Wolf and Willie Dixon tunes, spiced with his own fresh funk and soul.

Buddy Guy has now taken the young Kingfish out on national tour and set him up with Tom Hambridge to produce Kingfish’s new self-titled debut record on Alligator Records (http://www.christonekingfishingram.com).

The CD is an excellent introduction to this young Delta blues artist and highlights include Kingfish’s funky duet with Guy on their rocking “Fresh Out”; his knotted chords and leaps on the steamy “Before I’am Old” and his flowing acoustic guitar rambles and vocals on the dreamy, “Been There Before.” Some other cuts on the recording show less originality, but Kingfish imbues even these more predictable outings with his soulful vocals and dynamic guitar. The recording’s sonic quality is not audiophile quality, unfortunately, as it suffers (like many a modern blues recording) from a hyped-up “pop” treble energy that lends excess sibilance to Kingfish’s normally buff baritone and adds thinness and glare to his naturally fluid guitar churn.

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Touring in support of his debut record, Kingfish recently performed in Boston on the intimate stage of The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint in Malden, MA. (http://www.theporchsouthern.com). Accompanied by his tight band, Kingfish took the stage with all the confidence of a veteran bluesman churning power chords and adroit runs with effortless precision. He shifted seamlessly from the boogie commotion of “It Ain’t Right” (creating breakneck runs to the pulsing groove laid down by drummer Chris Black and bassist Paul Rodgers) to a beautiful quiet acoustic version of “Listen,” a soft-spinning ballad that utilized Kingfish’s crisp guitar strums along with earthy deep vocals.

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Kingfish also graciously invited local blues guitarist and songwriter Tyler Morris to the stage to join him in a blistering youthful exchange. The two guitar slingers joyfully conversed on BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” with Kingfish rendering spinning, stinging notes in colorful boogie while Morris contributing beefy amplified holds and frisky, sparkling flourishes on his scorching guitar. Here were two young protégés of Buddy Guy dipping their buckets into the rich well of the blues tradition to inspire their own fresh takes: deep toe-tapping blues, heart-felt and soulful.

And speaking of heart-felt and soulful, there was another recent Boston blues-love fest that must be mentioned, as it too shook the rafters of a local club and made for another memorable evening of rollicking blues. This was the concert held on December 19th presented by Boston radio station WUMB (http://www.wumb.org) on the intimate stage of the inviting Burren, located in Somerville, MA. (http://www.burren.com). The concert was a special gathering of local blues musicians led by virtuoso guitarist, singer and songwriter, Peter Parcek (http://www.peterparcekband.com), who brings a gale-force presence and creativity to everything his blistering electric blues (and roving curiosity) seeks.

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Parcek was joined by a host of sterling local musicians, including Marco Gilvino on drums (a creative presence on his drumkit and a great producer in his own right – see Strange Angels: In Flight With Elmore James [Sylvan Songs Records] – my pick for best Blues record of 2018); Joe Klompus on bass; Tom West on keyboards; Jonathan LaMaster on violin and Danielle Miraglia on guitar and vocals.

From classics to Parcek originals, the band strode forth on the locomotive thunder of Parcek’s electric guitar. Parcek covers all styles of the blues with aplomb. He loves to grease his guitar neck with quick runs and splintered ends of notes, (like little barbs of sharp glow), and also loves to let his tumultuous slides wring out all their amplified heat and fuzz into the surrounding air. Parcek’s earthy vocals, with their touch of light grit and grain, make for an expressive vehicle with his guitar: surging and soulful or fire-alarm audacious. At the Burren, Parcek attacked the classic boogie of “Kokomo Blues” with an inventive slip and slides of notes, sputtering in short trills or letting his unspooled long slides luxuriate in their falling heat. He took up his slide guitar to ignite the fuzz-ladened storm of his new original, “World Upside Down,” erupting in a swath of harmonics and big holds that billowed outwards in resonant, vibrating thunder.

Parcek’s All-Star band followed Parcek’s every creative flight, reveling in their collective synergy and zest. Gilvino employed a number of creative additions to his drum kit (a tambourine attached to the top of his hi-hat; shakers attached to his drum sticks) to spice his deep, steady pulse and his propulsive low thrums. Klompus teased with isolated bass notes and fleshy pulls, especially loving his interplay with West, whose gliding keyboard notes always hit the grooving target with their melodic flow and velvety pulse. The combination of the band’s electric blues with LaMaster’s fiddle was another cool twist, animated with new colors and LaMaster’s swooping phrasing and deft plucks.

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When the silken-voiced Miraglia took to the stage, the band fell in with her dulcet spirit on a smartly grooving Dylan tune, rolling along on Miraglia’s silvery lithe phrasing, (adding earthy husk to her most fervent high reaches). The band played a final holiday salute, Chuck Berry’s “Run, Rudolph, Run”, busting out of the gate with Parcek and Miraglia exchanging frenetic guitar quips joined by West’s barrage of barrelhouse runs. Parcek, (always the intrepid, open-hearted bluesman), was all smiles in hurling forth his final, tumultuous guitar hold to cap this merry night of blues at the Burren.

 


You can read more of Nelson’s concert reviews at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.


 

 

 

Nordost Playlist – October 2019

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this October.



You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY


  1. Stay High—Brittany Howard—Jaime
  2. Lean On Me—José James—Lean On Me
  3. Nameless—Dominique Fils-Aimé—Nameless
  4. I Used to Be Somebody—June Carter Cash—Press On
  5. Holy Terrain—FKA twigs, Future—Holy Terrain
  6. Walking in Memphis—Marc Cohn—Marc Cohn
  7. New Favorite—Alison Krauss & Union Station—New Favorite
  8. Honey and Smoke—Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs—case/lang/veirs
  9. Crazy—Bill Frisell—East/West
  10. The Pure and the Damned—Oneohtrix Point Never, Iggy Pop—Good Time