Grace Notes

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

And now – here is the unofficial, unauthorized, non-expert, entirely subjective endorsement of my three favorite musical discoveries of the past year. Two were produced real time and the third is a new compilation of what have become classics. I know these three are my favorites du jour because they live in my car and I play them over and over. Soon enough they will migrate back into the house to join the ranks of the CDs that used to live in the car but do no longer. Imagine the resentment. “Sure, go ahead big guy, enjoy the car now, but someday real soon you’ll find yourself back in the house, you’ll see. We’ll save a space right here by the rest of us.”

If you’ve seen him in concert, swaying back and forth, sporting his black school boy mane and his signature black tunic and pants, you won’t need much explanation as to why his CD rides in the car. Joshua Bell is the cat’s meow. When he’s not on tour he likes his Manhattan apartment and he likes his friends, a whole bunch of friends that live on a musical plane most can’t comprehend. When you get to Bell’s status you not only have friends but people who owe you because you were a guest at their performance or on their recording. So when he started calling in his markers he had a whole stream of these incredible people show up in his apartment and they started making music, and recording it. The 2009 CD is called Joshua Bell at home with friends. Well, when friends like Sting, Josh Groban and Ravi Shankar’s daughter, Anoushka, show up you know something incredible is going to happen. And so it did. And Bell floated through all these different musical universes like he lived in them all forever.

There is nothing nicer than a home town boy or girl making good, and Missouri has claimed Sheryl Crow ever since she packed up and left Kennett, headed to the University of Missouri and then finally left it all behind in an ever arching vapor trail of stardom. Singing backup for the likes of Michael Jackson was short lived because before you know it people were singing back up for her since she was the little woman with the gigantic presence out in front. At the recent Missouri State Fair in Sedalia a thousand or so of our best friends sat in the stands while she rocked the night away. Of course, there were the standards we all wanted to hear one more time. But she closed with an encore that left us breathless, singing alone at the keyboard, a reflection of her own struggle with cancer – I shall be Healed. And there was also material from a new recording she just put together, and she named it 100 Miles from Memphis. It is a return trip, this project is, and there is Memphis R&B and Motown and some other pots and pans thrown in for good measure. How her soul just comes up an out through those incredible vocal chords I don’t know. But they do, right along with session musicians that don’t miss a beat.


There are masters and then there are masterworks. When TELARC pulled together a collection of master works all of which were directed by THE master of the choral tradition in this generation, Robert Shaw, they simply hit a grand slam. Robert Shaw: Master of the First Art, Vol. 1, covers an unbelievable territory, spanning Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic,  and Modern periods. The sign of true mastery is found in Shaw’s seamless interpretation, regardless the century or geography. From Orff to Durufle to Brahms the sound is breathtaking. Recorded from 1979 to 1994, the wand of the master drew together the art of the many into the art of the one. It’s remarkable in all respects and because each and every work that was included in the collection has stood the test of time the whole project is luminous. It will stay in the car for a very long time.

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