- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

KEIKO MATSUI
The Ring
(BMI Records)
This title cut is from the new CD by Keiko Matsui, a very talented and gifted pianist who hails from Japan. Miss Matsui started studying classical music at the tender age of 5. In junior high, her favorite music came from Rachmaninov, Sibelius, as well as R&B; artist Stevie Wonder and her jazz favorite, Chick Corea. You'll hear influences from these very powerful artists in this CD as well as her own style.
Miss Matsui graduated from the prestigious Nihon Joshidaigaku Japan Women's University, where she majored in the study of child cultures. But her first love is music and she studied at the Yamaha Music Foundation where her talents blossomed..
At 17 she hooked up with a jazz group called Cosmos, recording four albums. Her first solo album that was released in the United States was "A Drop of Water;" then came "Deep Blue," "Dream Walk," and a track called "Whisper from the Mirror."
"The Ring" is her 14th album and could very well be one of her best yet with songs like "Messenger," "Deity In the Silence," "Venus of the Sea" as well as the title song. I'm positive that this CD will give her fans something to cheer about and to reflect on. Most importantly her fans will embrace this CD with the power, yet softness, and intriguing passion that will go straight to the heart of lovers of jazz fusion the world over.
C.R. Hodge

SAN ANTONIO VOCAL ARTS ENSEMBLE
Ancient Echoes
(World Library Publications)
Ever want a taste of first-century music? Christopher and Covita Moroney, who conduct a vocal ensemble in San Antonio, have been researching the sounds, music, languages and prayers of the time of Jesus Christ and of the Second Temple in 538 BC. Sixteen selections, some in Hebrew and others in Aramaic, are accompanied by instruments of the time: the shofar, the harp, drums and the oud, a kind of lute. Also included are the shabbahah Middle Eastern flutes and finger cymblas, a tambourine and the kemanche and rababah, both of which are stringed spike fiddles.
The result is numbers like "Ashir shirim," a zippy wedding song that sounds very much like something that could have been played 20 centuries ago, albeit with a few enhancements. The harp, for instance, is a 20th-century lap harp with nylon strings of the sort that would have been available in earlier times.
It would help this CD to better explain numbers like "Abwoon," other than the fact this is an Aramaic rendition of The Lord's Prayer. The album is so technical, it required the services of an archaeomusicologist (a student of ancient music history) from the University of Notre Dame to interpret.
Selections such as "Song of Seikilos" (a first-century Greek song), "Wa y'daber Elohim" (The Ten Commandments) and "Bircath Cohenim" make for very pleasant listening. The album gives far more emphasis to Jewish tradition than to Christian songs, as Christian hymnody was almost non-existent in its first century.
The "Arabian dance" was a disappointment, as maybe one expects something more like Salome's "Dance of the Seven Veils" (the story which definitely is first century). "Psalm 14: B'tseth Israel"," sounds more like a medieval chant. Very pleasant. Although it's a bit late for Hanukkah, this would be the perfect gift. Where else could you find music set to a chant from the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Julia Duin

PRINCE AND THE NEW POWER GENERATION
One Nite Alone Live
(NPG Records)
This box set, "One Nite Alone Live," is Prince on Prince's terms, which means listeners must endure several too-long jams alongside many gems. Those who wait out a handful of showoffy funk interludes will be richly rewarded.
As always, Prince makes being a musical genius sound easy. Most of the songs in the package were recorded live, and his playful cockiness keeps the crowd on his side through hits and obscure numbers alike.
The first two discs show off plenty of new material, with the band running through older hits so fast they're practically a medley. It's fun, but people hoping for a greatest hits set will feel shortchanged.
A third disc, called "The Aftershow," consists mainly of endless versions of Prince's less beloved songs, including "Peach" and "Joy in Repetition." It's the kind of thing that works better when you're at the show, not imagining yourself there.
Still, the latest incarnation of Prince's backup group, the New Power Generation, is as solid as any he's played with. All the musicians sound fresh and dynamic, and sax players Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer stand out.
The most stunning disc is the last one, where Prince strips down the arrangements and gives breezy performances with little more than his piano and falsetto. "One Nite Alone," "Avalanche" and "Young and Beautiful" are devastating.
You go into this album expecting to be blown away by the over-the-top live sets, but end up floored by the moments of exquisite simplicity.
Tim Molloy, AP Writer

Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock Box

(Columbia-Legacy)
Some say there will never be anything new in music, only different patterns woven of the same yarn. If that's the case, musicians have been pulling at the rough edges of Herbie Hancock's musical fabric for decades.
The "Herbie Hancock Box," a four-disc retrospective on the Grammy winner's music, covers every facet of modern jazz. These 34 songs, from 25 albums and two decades, map where jazz has been, exactly how it melded with other genres, and perhaps even where the sound is going.
A member of Miles Davis' mid-'60s quintet that successfully fused rock and jazz on the influential "Bitches Brew," Mr. Hancock continued to do things with jazz on his own recordings that many had never thought possible.
While Mr. Davis used electric guitars, Mr. Hancock used electronic organs and eventually strayed into peculiar realms that somehow sat comfortably under the towering umbrella of jazz.
The first two discs focus on Mr. Hancock's acoustic compositions, which he returned to repeatedly. They vary from a version of Gershwin's "Liza (All the Clouds Roll Away)," a floating, whimsical tune Mr. Hancock does with a piano bar feel, to the chaotic, acoustic improvisation on "Dolphin Dance" in 1981.
But the third and fourth discs are arguably more important. They detail his voyage into that world of early electronica. He proved himself more than a protege of Mr. Davis with these songs, recorded in the '70s and '80s, and their effect lingers still.
They include the velvetlike funk of "Come Running to Me," which has Mr. Hancock singing through an electronic voice box; the bouncing electronic chirps and grinding sound effects on "Rain Dance," and "Rockit," a mix of scratching turntables and looped drumbeats that heralded the birth of '80s hip hop.
The songs in the box follow no chronology, and they jump easily among styles. Packaged upright in a no-frills translucent box, they're proof enough that putting a label on a musician, at least someone with vision, means it will be torn off.
Ryan J. Lenz, AP Writer

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