With the year, and the holidays, winding down I try to find some time to catch up on recordings that I've missed.
This year, I'm spending time with three CDs—two older recordings by Canadian artists and the new ArtistShare release by orchestral master Bob Brookmeyer.
Special Angel is a set of duets recorded in 2002 by pianist Marilyn Lerner and guitarist Sonny Greenwich. It would be hard to think of two artists who come from more diverse backgrounds and interests. While Lerner has made her reputation with klezmer music, Cuban music, and her own idiosyncratic solo piano pieces, Greenwich has taken the influence of mid-period Coltrane and spun it out through his own highly personal view of the world, in which Paul Klee, Ravel and Miles Davis hold equal weight. What brings them together, I imagine, is both their openness and innate spirituality. Whatever it is, the results are beautiful.
There is a painterly connection to my second Canadian selection, too. In 2001, guitarist Tony Quarrington and some of Toronto's top musicians (including Jane Bunnett, Don Thompson, Barry Romberg and Kirk MacDonald) recorded a suite of music inspired by the ground-breaking works of the Group of Seven—the loose-knit school of Canadian landscape artists who dominated the field in the 20th century. The connection between visual art and music is endlessly fascinating, and Quarrington's compositions aim to capture the sense of space and awe of nature that these seven painters explored so masterfully.
Brookmeyer's new CD didn't make it onto my player(s) for top 10 consideration, but it's high placement on New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff's list made it a must-hear. Brookmeyer has been overlooked in recent years, but he remains the inspiration for young, higher-profile artists like Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck (who plays on this CD) and as vital as he was 25 years ago. Featuring his New Art Orchestra and seven new compositions, Spirit Music is first rate.