June 13, 2010
Pop Gurrumul (Dramatico . . ) An indigenous Australian singer-songwriter blind from birth, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu has become an unlikely breakout star across the world since releasing this hour-long debut album at home and in Europe. He's duetted with Sting on French TV, opened by personal request for Elton John at the Sydney Opera House, and seen the album go double platinum and win several awards in Australia. Rightly so: Singing primarily in regional dialects of Australia's Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve, Yunupingu's voice is transfixing and somehow universal.
November 6, 2006 |
Simon Shaheen, the Palestinian American composer and master oud and violin player, has charisma and a virtuoso's confidence. One product of that confidence was his inclusion of sidemen whose credentials could be considered equal to or even greater than his. During his Saturday-night show at the University of Pennsylvania's Zellerbach Theater, Shaheen entered into a taqsim, or extended duo improvisation, with percussionist Michel Merhej, a...
August 29, 2004 |
There may be no bulletproof formula for creating a hit, but the record industry has some rules for following one up: Get back into the marketplace as quickly as possible. Seize every passing promotional opportunity. Especially in urban music, where tastes change with the weather, even the most thinly veiled rehash is welcome - if not encouraged. Jill Scott didn't heed that script. The native Philadelphian poet, singer and songwriter hardly rushed to develop the follow-up to 2000's Who Is Jill Scott?
June 23, 2003 |
At times on previous tours, Ben Harper has appeared torn between delivering troubadour-style calls to enlightenment and kicking out impulsive party jams designed to make listeners forget the world's troubles. Not anymore. Saturday at the Mann Center, headlining a bill that included the like-minded Jack Johnson, Harper found ways to align the seemingly irreconcilable impulses. He derided power and arrogance ("Excuse me, mister, is that your oil in the sea?") over a positively blissful reggae groove.
August 25, 2002 |
You know summer is treating you right when you abandon the details and begin thinking in ever bigger pictures. That's a challenge for music critics - we tend to itemize and categorize, ranking experiences by all kinds of crazy measurements in futile attempts to situate what we're hearing in a fixed spot of the cosmos. This season, I tried to resist that impulse, and instead kept a running notebook for those stray ideas - little observations about new artists, old records I came to appreciate again, moments when the most poised individuals fell apart or did something crazy, sexy or cool.
December 17, 2000 |
It's not just the material that crashed the gates and damaged the boundaries. It's not exclusively what you gravitated to again and again, the comfort food of the CD stack. The year's "best" is a highly subjective combination of the stuff that held you awestruck and what sustained you in your hour of need. The music that kept you driving at 2 in the morning, destination unknown. Part journal and part travelogue, the following list represents what I consider the highest achievements in a very good year, music that hit me hard enough to demand further consideration, then actually rewarded that attention.
July 15, 2000 |
There was a time, in the '80s, when those obsessed with the enigmatic studio-pop outfit Steely Dan would have settled for any chance - a three-hour "Bad Sneakers" marathon - to see their idols perform live. Now, six years into a comeback built around regular touring, the thrill of watching guitarist Walter Becker and keyboardist Donald Fagen lead well-compensated session musicians through the hallowed hits has dimmed a bit. It's not a lack of energy: Thursday at the Waterfront Entertainment Centre, the principals and their 11-piece Steely Dan Orchestra 2000 interpreted warhorses "Peg" and "FM" with a fervor some acts reserve for their latest material.
February 10, 1998 |
Sometime during the final piece of Kenny Garrett's second set Sunday, Zanzibar Blue morphed into a hip-hop club. Garrett and his awesome backing trio - pianist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Matt Reeves, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts - were playing a boogaloo backbeat. After he finished an inspired solo, saxophonist Garrett started a chant. "Go Jeff," he taunted, urging the crowd to chant along. As Watts drummed up a storm behind the vocals, Garrett offered simple, casually stated b-boy rhymes.
January 11, 1997 |
HRT, Michael Nyman's new score for Relache has a jaunty optimism that might suggest the relief some women experience after taking hormones. But, no, this HRT doesn't refer to Hormone Replacement Therapy. The acronym stands for High Rise Terminal, a linguistical term for the way some English speakers end sentences with rising inflections. No matter the title, the music - rife with rising, questioning phrases - is enjoyable on its own, although the ensemble's performance last night at the Annenberg Center's Harold Prince Theater was short on refinement.
October 21, 1996 |
By the time soul sensation Maxwell reached his encore Friday at the Theatre of Living Arts, he'd long abandoned hopes of entertaining the capacity crowd. The 22-year-old New Yorker had been forced to leave the stage twice when the sound system's power supply failed, and by the end of what was obviously a frustrating night, he was out to save face. He wanted redemption. He got it. The encore, "Gotta Get Closer," started out as a simple pop song with a gospel-like "amen" chord sequence.