Saturday, September 30, 2006

full moon

Musician/composer Egberto Gismonti - joined by percussionist Naná Vasconcelos - explores some of the African roots of Brazil's music on this cut, Kalimba (Lua Cheia).

Friday, September 29, 2006

¡piano si! ¡embargo no!

I was looking for a photo for today's post when I stumbled across Ben Treuhaft's Send a Piana to Havana project. Ben's a piano tuner who's been trying to help Cuban citizens maintain and restore pianos (termites and other wildlife are a big problem...). Unfortunately, his work has been hindered by the US embargo - and the current administration. (No surprise there, eh?!)

I really, really really want to see The Tuners' Brigade film - cleverly titled "Tuning with the Enemy" - but it's not out on DVD yet. But I'm going to get in the spirit of things by listening to the great Bebo Valdés playing a bolero medley: Se fue plus Quizás, Quizás, Quizás and finally, Aurora. (That's Cachao on bass, and the masterful Patato Valdéz on percussion.)

¡Viva la Revolución Musical!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


From Paris (yesterday) to "the old, weird America" today...

Leadbelly - John Hardy

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

le petit bal

Changing things up a bit... Today's cut is from Miles Davis' score for the film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud. It's take 2 of Le petit bal.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

copyright singer

I bet you're wondering about the title of today's post. It's Ghanian slang for an artist who covers other people's material; see also "copyright band."

Though the song I'm presenting today isn't really a cover, but a reinvention. I have no idea who's in the band, nor of what happened to singer Charlotte Dada after this single was released.

Don't Let Me Down

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Here's another post that wouldn't have happened without Michael Lee's diligent attendance at boot sales. He recently featured some cuts by South African singer Letta Mbulu.

Like her compatriot Miriam Makeba, Letta gained some notoriety here in the States during the late 1960s. I can remember seeing her - and Miriam - on TV. Letta tried her hand at making both African and American-style recordings. This cut, Macongo, is from one of her Motown LPs. It's one of my favorite Letta sides, I suppose because it's a tribute to one of the most beguiling African pop styles, Congolese rumba.

Note: Letta's still around, and I wish she'd do one last US tour...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

racetrack blues

"He had a ring 'round his shoulder, and it's shining just like gold."

For today: Memphis Slim (piano and vocals) and Willie Dixon (bass, vocals) performing Stewball. I love the use of language, and the spare accompaniment. This song traveled to the US with immigrants, but took on new meanings here.

* Photo of Memphis Slim by Rayburn Flerlage

Friday, September 22, 2006

dark ladder

I've been listening to Joni Mitchell's Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire today, wondering just how she was able to evoke a difficult romance and gritty urban landscape in a series of unrelated images. It's as if she rewrote a straightforward story in code.

* "Ladder Reflections" by Mallorie Ostrowitz

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Earlier this month, I posted a track by Lebanese singer Fairuz.

Here's a tribute to her by Greek singer Melina Kana. It's called (what else?) Fairuz. I love the fusion of Greek and Arabic musical styles - it's a sure thing (musically, that is), and very elegant to boot.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


More bhangra today - only this time, it's the ladies' turn. Both bhangra and giddha are folk dances from Punjab, India. Giddha is the women's version, and includes improvised poetry and pretty heavy percussion. It takes a lot of sweat and stamina to do these dances well, which is - I think - one of the reasons why they're such favorites, and why so many Indian students (at home and abroad) enter dance team competitions.

Today's song is Gidda Pao Haan Deo, with lead vocals by Mohinder Kaur Bhamra and nifty percussion/production by her son Kuljit. (Hint: He's famous, and his records are well worth hunting down...) You can find this one on The Rough Guide to Bhangra.

* Photo: Giddha competition in Punjab

Monday, September 18, 2006


So far, everything I've posted here has been acoustic and on the quiet, "polite" side. I decided today that it would be fun to change things up a bit - and admit my fondness for bhangra, one of today's hottest Indian pop crazes, in the process.

Bhangra's really a diaspora phenomenon, created in the UK by South Asian kids who wanted a mixture of all the music they love. It's hard to define, but very easy to dance to.

You might already have heard today's cut on the soundtrack to "Bend it Like Beckham" - they featured it twice, in two different mixes. It's called Darshan, and is by Birmingham-based group B21.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

tin feet

I've been listening to the Tin Hat Trio over the past week... They're hard to categorize, but very compelling, and they come up with good titles.

Here's a track called March of the Smallest Feet, from their most recent CD, Book of Silk.

* Photo by George Azar

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

manzanillo... the title of the piece I'm featuring today. It was written by American composer Valentine Abt, and is interpreted here by Beppe Gambetta (with David Grisman and Carlo Aonzo).

To me, Manzanillo is close kin to Brazilian choro music - one of my favorite genres.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

roses of caracas

Some years back I received a copy of the "Ghost World" soundtrack and was surprised and delighted by the tracks by Trinidad native Lionel Belasco. Best known for his calypsos, Belasco also composed many Venezuelan-style waltzes. The track I've posted today - Roses of Caracas Waltz (from Goodnight Ladies and Gents) - is one of my favorites.


For today, a cut by Italian (well, Piedmontese) singer/composer/lyricist Gianmaria Testa - it's called Tuareg.

Monday, September 11, 2006

bees from the boot sale

Boot Sale Sounds is one of my favorite music blogs. One of the main reasons: you never know what you'll find next.

In this case, it's a recording by Nigerian singer Nat Atkins. Back in the late 1980s, I came across Nat's name on the back of a record sleeve, in the composer's credits for a song titled "Darling Don't Say No." Nice song, but what really grabbed me was his band's name: Nat Atkins and his Crazy Bees.

It turns out that Nat lived in London and recorded for the Melodisc label. Some of his work is featured on London is the Place for Me, Vol. 4 (Honest Jon's). It's on my shopping list!

For now, though, I'm enjoying Sumongole, courtesty of Michael Leigh, the owner and proprietor of the Boot Sale Sounds archive. Be sure to stop by and check his latest entries...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

accord [ion]

I was stuck in gridlocked traffic on top of a mountain yesterday, with the iPod in tow. This cut, by Brazilian accordionist Toninho Ferragutti, came on and it struck me as being great post material.

It's the title track from Toninho's first CD, Sanfonemas

Thursday, September 07, 2006

single string

I mentioned my love for the Japanese koto in an earlier post - and decided, on the spur of the moment, to upload a short contemporary piece for the instrument. The composer/performer is Michiyo Yagi, a former student of Tadao and Kazue Sawai. Their koto school - and their own compositions and performances - celebrate ancient tradition and contemporary innovation.

So, Michiyo Yagi's whimsical and inventive Monochord, from her album Shizuku (Tzadik).

* For more on the koto - and more koto music - please visit Elizabeth Falconer's Koto World site; also Masayo Ishiguro's site. Try your hand at "virutal" koto here!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Lord Kitchener's Bebop Calypso, from London is the Place for Me

(For Marc Meyers. He would understand and appreciate this take on Bird.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

honey and ashes

When I was living on South Tenth Street (above the folks who played Latin dance music), I started sending away for records and tapes. My favorite company stocked music from all over the world. Before long, I had a small stack of cassettes by Lebanese singer Fairuz - pop material for certain, but good.

Her voice has been celebrated and described many times over, but it's impossible to capture her sound - and the feelings she evokes - in words. Also, for many Lebanese, Fairuz's work symbolizes the hope of a new country, and new life.

This song, Chat Iskandaria, is a nostalgic evocation of Alexandria, Egypt - not the city that exists now, but pre-WWII.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


We're getting drenched by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto, so the inclement weather continues. Last night it poured buckets, and driving in heavy night rain isn't something I enjoy, so I stayed home and listened to music. On a whim, I pulled out something I haven't heard for a very long time - the Rondeña from Isaac Albeniz's "Iberia," played by Aldo Ciccolini. Like many Americans, I first heard Ciccolini via his Satie recordings for Angel, back in the early 1970s. The delicacy and whimsy of many of those pieces, combined with Ciccolini's deft touch, made me hungry for more.

In 1976 or so, I happened across a Seraphim 2 LP set of the Albeniz pieces, bought it (who could turn it down, for such a low price?) and promptly fell in love with the broken rhythms and dark melodicism of his work - especially as interpreted by A.C.

So, here it is - Albeniz's Rondeña