Quintessence is the "pure and concentrated essence of a substance" and the title of a beautiful album from vocalist Betty Buckley and longtime producer/musical arranger/pianist Kenny Werner, who is co-credited on the cover. Not actually a "compilation," the liner notes by Betty Lynn Buckley explain that this studio disc, the musical duo's ninth album over a span of two decades, represents more of an open arrangement to rework the music the singer is associated with. For example, she extends Arthur Alexander's classic "Cry Me a River" from the sparse – and shorter – 3:09 version on 1997's Much More album to a more elaborate and experimental vamp that is double in length.
Bessie Regina Norris, better known by her stage name, Betty Wright (born December 21, 1953), is a Miami-based soul and R&B singer-songwriter, who rose to fame in the 1970s with hits such as "Clean Up Woman" and "Tonight is the Night". After leaving TK Records Betty moved on to a bigger label, signing with Epic where her self-titled album was released. The album was notable for the minor Stevie Wonder-composed hit, "What Are You Gonna Do With It". That same year, she contributed vocals on Richard "Dimples" Fields' Dimples album, especially on the hit, "She's Got Papers on Me", where she catches Fields singing out about another woman, verbally attacking him in the ending monologue. In 1983, the album Wright Back at You featured compositions by Marlon Jackson, of the Jackson Five.
The tender musical heart of this enchanted take on The Man Who Fell to Earth belongs to composer Edward Shearmur, who turns in a largely synthesized score where spare, delicate piano melodies often recall Thomas Newman's deft sense of space and dynamics. While the general musical ethos seems a throwback to the mid-'80s heyday of pioneering electronic scores by Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, contemporary technical advances have allowed Shearmur to impart an ethereal and distinctly organic aural patina to these cues. Though informed by his atmospheric session work with Pink Floyd (The Division Bell), Shearmur's K-PAX score stands apart: quiet, mystically introspective music that seems as uncomplicated–and yet innately profound–as an autumn breeze.
Saying this record is a classic product of its time understates – the cover art alone, referring to the title by showing a denim-clad female rear in the hands of a no doubt appreciative fellow, is so beyond irony that Spinal Tap might as well have jacked it in before they started…
If your Latin jazz collection centers mainly around styles from Cuba and Brazil, pianist Edward Simon would like you to consider expanding your library to include musical influences from a culturally diverse land geographically situated between those two countries – namely Venezuela, where he was born and lived until the age of 12. Simon is an acclaimed post-bop and modern creative jazz pianist in his adopted country of the United States, and while Latin American elements have certainly seasoned his recorded output to date, this 2014 Sunnyside release finds him focusing more intently than ever on the nexus between creative jazz and the folk music of his home country. The album's title is derived from "Venezuelan Suite," whose four parts fill over 28 minutes of the disc's concise 38-minute duration. Simon composed the suite for his Ensemble Venezuela, and the ten-member version of the group heard here – including musicians from the U.S., Venezuela, and Colombia – is wonderfully vibrant, ably fulfilling the pianist's creative intent. Chamber Music America commissioned Simon to write this work, and he rose to the challenge with music that is suitably rich with timbral and textural variety.