Before our next foray into the concert scene, time to check into a sample of current CD recordings in “heavy rotation” (as our colleague Michael Fremer likes to say) here at Bostonconcertreviews:

First up is a marvelous trip to Brazil courtesy of Brazilian bassist and producer, Nilson Matta, on his gorgeous recording, Black Orpheus [Motema Music-].


Matta has brought together a brilliant ensemble of musicians to explore many of the radiant pieces associated with the groundbreaking 1959 film of its title; a film that sparked an international love affair with Brazil and Bossa Nova in its day. The compositions range from dazzling showpieces of orchestral color and artistic verve to beautiful spirited journeys. Matta’s redoubtable bass propels everything, from the “Overture” that spans buoyant Bossa (unfolding in Randy Brecker’s trumpet flourishes) to pungent lushness curled around Matta’s bass bowing. Check out one of our favorite clarinetists around, Anat Cohen, as she sends sparks into the swinging night sky on the kinetic “Samba De Orfeu” or on the equally infectious “Frevo De Orfeu.” Catch, in a rare appearance, the eminent pianist Kenny Barron as he utilizes his beautiful way with under-statement and a subtle exploration of melody to deeply propel the ballad, “Manha De Carnaval” – all silky and slinky. Of course, there are other great moments with Randy Brecker brash and ardent on trumpet through out and two great vocalists, Gretchen Parlato and Leny Andrade, each honing their tunes to perfection. Parlato brings her patented delicious vocal lightness and creative vision to “Lamento No Morro” while Andrade sings “A Felicidade” with ardent sensuality and smooth, effortless intonation. All of this wondrous musicianship and drama is wrapped up in a recording that is stellar in every way, from its deep layered soundstage to its great dynamic presence (if your system is up for the challenge). Matta’s creation brings brilliant, bold Brazil right into our lives, and hearing the squeaky call of Frenando Saci’s  “chic” drum is a lovely call to action to heed the unflinching beauty of this music.


And speaking of globe trotting and unflinching beauty, there is no one more captivating than mandolinist Avi Avital, on his latest release entitled Between Worlds [Deutsche Grammophon-].Avital’s mandolin is a thing of beauty to behold: all light, flash, spare and evocative. His ability to squeeze every emotional drop from his instrument is uncanny, as he trills with blistering speed one moment, and then sinks into slow, shadowy pulses the next. This recording is superb in capturing his artistry, particularly in focusing great textural and image precision upon Avital’s mandolin. Avital is also surrounded by a number of great artists who join him on this journey, including large ensembles such as the Kammerakademie Potsdam (bringing great festive atmosphere to Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances”) and singular musicians including accordionist Richard Galliano (who sparkles with Avital on several Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla pieces); clarinetists Giora Feidman and Sacha Rattle (whose klezmer swings and woody punctuations are dazzling through out) and bassist Klaus Stoll, who brings an impeccable touch to all he enlivens with his deep bowing. This is a recording to savor and explore with each different acoustic environment  illuminated beautifully with each of Avital’s staccato mandolin notes as they sparkle into the recording spaces. Since when does De Falla and Bartok have groove? In Avital’s world, all is possible. (Concert alert: Avital comes to Boston on March 13, 2015 as part of the Boston Early Music Festival. He will be performing with the Venice Baroque Orchestra at the First Church in Cambridge, MA. More details at:

Groove is also the order of the day in the world of roadhouse blues pianist, David Vest, and his fantastic band as they light up their new recording, Roadhouse Revelation [Cordovabay Records].


Vest and his band barrel out of the gate on “Freight Train Rolling” and never let up. Vest’s voice has this great mixture of smoothness, gruff dignity and soulfulness that drives his train down the track with a pounding resoluteness. “Stand Your Ground” stamps a full throttled groove with great guitar hooks from Teddy Leonard’s brash guitar; bone rattling bass from Gary Kendall; surging drum blasts from Mike Fitzpatrick and the tinkling of Vest’s top octaves on his piano reaches. These guys know how to pound down a great rocker or swing with New Orleans’ honky-tonk sass, such as on “Gone Too Far” or Crooked Politician”. “Santa Fe Steamer” busts out with Vest’s locomotive joy on piano as he slurs, runs and charges ahead with fantastic groove. The recording is up front and personal, getting you right into the piano’s frame or Leonard’s hot guitar strums on the slow-burning ballad, “That Happened to Me.” Thump and glowing lyricism – the name of the game on this gem of a blues romp.

And, finally, when we talk about glowing lyricism, there are very few recent songwriters who can compare to the impeccable touch of Jackson Browne, the subject of a new tribute recording entitled Looking Into You [Music Road


This two disc collection is eclectic, introspective (and ebullient) and thoroughly joyful- all spun out in fine sonic form with great musicians who put their hands to the wheel with full commitment to Browne’s songwriting genius. Highlights are legion: Disc One brings Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley funking up “Everywhere I Go” with reggae verve; the Indigo Girls swirl and weave through “Fountain of Sorrow”; Paul Thorn belts out “Doctor My Eyes” with earnest boldness; and Jimmy Lafave and his band give “For Everyman” an elegiac lightness. Disc Two brings more treasures to explore: Keb Mo pumps up ”Rock Me On The Water” with great punchy panache and so does Bruce Hornsby on “I’m Alive.” There are also keen emotional deliveries: Eliza Gilkyson and her band offer a deep undercurrent of passion on “Before The Deluge” and Lyle Lovett sings to “Rosie” with sweet, amorous feeling (with the great Russ Kunkel and Leland Sklar pushing the flow). Deep, penetrating moments are urgently delivered by Karla Bonoff on “Something Fine” and Marc Cohen on “Too Many Angels.” But the most wondrous (for us audiophiles looking for beauty in sound personified) is Shawn Colvin’s “Call It A Loan.” Colvin sits with her acoustic guitar in front of us and pours out her heart and soul on Browne’s tough gem with her guitar crisp, clear and magnificently glowing alongside her gorgeous, transported voice.



Nelson Brill is an avid music lover, who brings an audiophile perspective and a passion for the Arts to his reviews of live and recorded music. He has reviewed live concerts and recordings for many years for several online publications, including The Stereo Times and Harry Pearson’s HPSoundings. He has also been a contributing writer and reviewer for several other publications, including JAZZIZ magazine. His past writing for The Stereo Times also included many audiophile equipment reviews and he continues to evolve his own reference equipment to critically evaluate new recordings from an audiophile perspective. For Nelson, the joy of music is to be found everywhere and anywhere and Good Sound matters!

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