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Nearly a decade ago, I used to go to sleep with New Age music being played on a radio program distributed by public broadcasting. It wasn't especially my choice, rather winning out only because I could find no decent jazz or R &B on my FM dial.
New Age apparently assumed that moniker because the genre often has a spacey feel. For me it was a satisfying method to calm down after a hard day leaning over a computer, writing, writing, and writing. All these years later, I'm sitting at my keyboard, writing a column with a small part of my brain listening to the sounds of a performer named Dueter.
His new album, "Sun Spirit" (New Earth Records) celebrates the essence of the sun with captivating melodies, brought to life with spirited flute, synthesizer and drum.
It turns out that Dueter is something of a one-man band, requiring no additional musicians for this leisurely and inoffensive hour, consisting of nine tracks that (and I don't mean to be insulting) all sound alike.
Professional and with a certain amount of skill, Dueter has made an album that should delight those who revel in New Age music, while not particularly causing grimaces among those of us who would rather be listening to something else.
Lenny Sounds Great!God bless Lenny Williams. One of the great voices in the high-tenor realm of rhythm and blues has brought forth a wondrous album of sounds like they used to do, in the heydays of Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and many, many more. Williams never sounded better and if you appreciate the old sounds of R&B, you're guaranteed a happy journey through the list of 11 excellent songs performed by a terrific warbler.
It's amazing to find so much good material in a single album. Look for a copy of "Love Therapy" (Volt Records) at the place where you buy music. You'll have this one on the CD player for a l-o-n-g time.
Further ProofIf anyone who's heard bass player Avishai Cohen needs any more proof that he's one of the bright new talents in jazz, take a listen to "Colors" (Stretch Records).
The album was recorded after Cohen's band spent a week at Sweet Basil, the venerable jazz spot in New York City. Cohen composed most of this music while touring as Chick Corea's bassist. Cohen considers getting to work with Corea, a supremely gifted composer and pianist, to be almost miraculous.
Cohen gets credit for helping to advance jazz in the past few years. He and others have blended Latin and Near Eastern rhythms with the vocabulary of jazz. The result is music that stirs the emotions with one tune, while creating beauty and a sense of peace with another. It's special material and it's a pleasure to hear such explorations and facility with instruments.
Latin Excitement!The recent explosion in the popularity of Latin music has been exciting for folks like me who have enjoyed the Latin beat for more years than they'd like to admit. It's especially satisfying to see such first-class musicians as Pete Escovedo vault into the music lovers' consciences.
Escovedo, whose daughter Sheila E. should be recognizable to rock fans for her spectacular work on timbales for many name bands, has kept busy lately by operating night clubs that feature Latin music in both Los Angeles and the East Bay. He returns to recording with "E Music," (Stretch Records), a fine album that spotlights the mambo beat.
Guest musicians include his daughter, along with pianist George Duke, guitarist Ray Obiedo, and trumpet star Ray Vega. The album's 10 tunes offer solid musicianship. It's more than 50 minutes of joy.
Sweet SueSue Foley has made six albums, so she hardly can be called a newcomer to the hard, hard world of folk-rock-blues. Her new album consists of a dozen gems never released from her days with Antone Records.
There's some interesting material on "Back to the Blues", particularly an excellent cover of Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" and several Foley compositions that demonstrate her songwriting chops. The photos of the artist show that she needs to bow to no one in terms of sheer beauty. With any sort of luck, Foley should be "discovered."
Sun Ra: A Genius?Sun Ra (born 1914 Chicago as Herbert Poole "Sonny" Blount) always claimed that he had come from the planet Saturn. His orchestra, to the ears of many listeners, came from outer space, indeed. The dissonance and strange rhythms seemed to be jazz, but on occasions seem to lack any resemblance to music at all.
The death in 1993 of Sun Ra has done nothing to quiet the storm. The highly respected "Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD" devotes nine pages to the career of this admittedly strange human being, labeling him "a much-maligned and hugely influential figure."
Evidence Records is to be praised for release of repackaged albums from the great Sun Ra orchestras. Hear the "Arkestra" play once and you'll undergo a change in your attitude toward jazz.
Best of the bunch of new albums is the doublet set, "The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums," which contains two CDs, "Cymbals" and "Crystal Spears." The sound quality is excellent and the music awesome. Some who hear this will call it noise. Give it a chance and you'll see why musicians the world over have been changed by Sun Ra.
Other albums currently available include "Lanquidity," "When Angels Speak of Love," "Sun Ra and his Arkestra: Greatest Hits," and "Sun Ra and his Astro Infinity Arkestra," which contains the music from two albums, "Pathways to Unknown Worlds" and "Friendly Love."
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