Thanks in no small part to ECM founder Manfred Eicher's patience and indulgence, here we have another of Keith Jarrett's myriad of "special projects" – two CDs of music recorded on a clavichord. This carries Jarrett's anti-electric crusade to a real extreme, the clavichord being a keyboard from J.S. Bach's day, obsolete for over 200 years. The instrument produces a gentle pinging sound like a harpsichord crossed with a zither (the amplified Hohner Clavinet is the closest sound in our time), and Jarrett occasionally tries to stretch the instrument's limited possibilities, hammering percussively on the close-miked strings. Yet for the most part, Jarrett reins in his world-class technique in order to make unpretentiously minimal music on this ancient keyboard. Some of it sounds like folk music, some like new age contemplation, there are convincing neo-baroque musings, and a few of these untitled though numbered selections kick into a higher gear. Sometimes this music is charming; a lot of the time, it gets wearisome. But hey, they also laughed when Keith started putting out massive sets of solo piano…
Like Junior Boys and the more experimental Telefon Tel Aviv just before them, Beacon have the shape and look of a post-punk synth pop duo like Soft Cell, Associates, and Eurythmics, and are part of that lineage while unmistakably inspired by contemporary R&B. The first EP from Brooklyn dwellers Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett, released in 2011 on the Ghostly International-affiliated Moodgadget label, even sampled a certain hit R&B single from 1997. With a 2012 EP on Ghostly proper also in the distance, they take a few steps forward with their first album, a subtle and richly detailed set of ballads that ache in a way that is seductive rather than despondent. Mullarney's vocals, hushed but expressive, are heart-on-sleeve in nature with a hint of devilishness. His lyrics take some unexpected turns, as on "Overseer," where the opening verse is made of heated slow jam material until a sour finish: "Isn't it fine taking it slow, watching you watch me…walk out the door." Romantic division is a constant theme of the album.
Five Ways of Disappearing marks Smith's return to recording, and the album reflects both her psychedelic background and the more ethnic/folky material she creates now. Songs like "Aurelia Zebulon" and "Temporarily Lucy" are heavy, droning pieces bordering on gothic, while "In Your Head" is a demure pop song, and "Maggots" is an odd tune with a nonsensical chorus of "maggots/do-do-do-do-do." Her deadpan vocal delivery adds another layer of individuality to an offbeat album by an offbeat artist.
From a classical upbringing, to pop, jazz funk and jazz, Norby listens solely to her heart and evaluates the musical quality of melodies fully free of genre restrictions. It is a path between worlds that her ACT debut 'Arabesque' defined two years ago: She wrote her own lyrics to classical works, from Rimski-Korsakov and Ravel to Michel Legrand, and transported them to jazz with the aid of her husband Lars Danielsson and their band. Now, with her second ACT album 'Silent Ways' she goes back in the other direction to some extent.