6

044: Paul Robeson, ‘Go Down, Moses’

Passover is just around the corner, and while She Who Must Be Obeyed is busy polishing the wine cups and sterilizing the corkscrew, I’ll try to squeeze in a few appropriate words on the music of the season. Paul Robeson’s (1898-1976) is a remarkable story by any standards. He brought to the concert hall the songs of faith through which his slave forbears expressed all the suffering and indignity they were living.

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7

105: The Boswell Sisters, ‘Crazy People’

The Boswell Sisters had 20 hits in the early 1930s, and are arguably THE best vocal jazz group ever. Their 3-part harmonies are tighter than Aunt Bertha’s girdle, and their arrangements are constantly chock full of unexpected shifts in tempo, major/minor mode, key, and tone, flipping cheekily from dead serious to insouciant comic and back. They have a wicked and sometimes rather racy sense of humor. Their vocals are so hot they were often thought to be black. They scat with the best of them, and do knock-out imitations of instruments and nonsense sounds. A pleasure and an education, 80 years on.

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2

280: Charles Ives, ‘The Unanswered Question’

Founder of a successful insurance company. on weekends he composed modernist music that lay unheard for 50 years and “responded to negligence with contempt”.
My new role model.

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4

170: Laura Nyro, ‘Luckie’ (“Eli & the 13th Confession”)

50 years ago this week, Laura Nyro’s “Eli & the 13th Confession” was released. The unadulterated passion—pain and ecstasy–the ebullience, the brilliance, the humor, the candor, the funk, the mystic and the mythic of this masterpiece have been an integral part of my inner world ever since. It’s guided me and inspired me and comforted me and intrigued me through so many of the hills and valleys of my entire adult life. Laura, on this yovel (jubilee) birthday, I embrace you and salute you. Thank you for this music.

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5

102: Netanela, ‘Shir HaYona’ (Matti Caspi)

In 1974, while working with an IDF entertainment troupe as his reserve duty, 25 year-old composer/singer Matti Caspi discovered the 19 year-old singer/soldier Netanela. He composed ‘Shir HaYona’ (Song of the Dove) for her, a secular peace prayer which still resonates today.

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4

278: The Danish String Quartet, ‘Sønderho Bridal Trilogy – Part II’/Dreamers’ Circus, ‘Kitchen Stories’

A classical string quartet and a roots trio. Six (sic) shaggy, hunky young Danish musicians exploring their roots with such panache and skill and joy that you can’t not love it. I guarantee you.

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8

277: Joni Mitchell, ‘Electricity’

Why Joni Mitchell isn’t relevant in a world of Millenial zombies.

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4

099: Luciana Souza, ‘Baião à Tempo’ (“An Answer to Your Silence”)

I get that not everyone needs to go hacking through impregnable jazz jungles or crawling across atonal minimalist deserts or getting lost in endless Nordic a cappella virgin forests. But believe me, Luciana Souza’s “An Answer to Your Silence” is vocal jazz of singular, innovative genius – groundbreaking, underappreciated, and regretfully unknown. It is THE most interesting CD I’ve heard in the last decade.

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