If you don't like Ray Anderson, then you probably just don't like trombone players in general, for there's not a more engaging trombonist in jazz – certainly not one who communicates greater love for life. He invests so much genuine good humor and enthusiasm in every note he plays. And that's to say nothing of his extraordinary chops and imagination, and his wonderful compositional ability. Anderson's got the total package. He plays "in" every bit as strongly as he does "out"; for Anderson, there seems to be no separation between the two.
Carleen Anderson had recorded as a member of the Young Disciples and as a backup singer for artists like Bryan Ferry, Paul Weller, and Guru by the time of her debut True Spirit in 1994. It's a self-assured Anderson, and she possesses a warm, soulful voice. She also reveals herself to be capable of temperature raising, orgasmic moans at the end of the (up to that point) Stevie Wonder-like "Morning Loving." True Spirit succeeds in drawing on older R&B vibes and making them sound fresh. Multi-instrumentalist Ian Green (who also produced) gives Anderson musical backdrops that range from bluesy to funky to sultry. The lyrics are literate and sophisticated, balancing a focus on romantic relationships ("Ain't Givin' Up on You," the title track) and socially conscious concerns ("Mama Said," "Nervous Breakdown"). Anderson's vocals are arresting icing on the cake, particularly haunting on the dramatic ballad "Only One for Me." True Spirit is a gorgeous album that constantly draws in the listener, both musically and spiritually.
Rossini's La donna del lago ("The Lady of the Lake") is a lush, positively verdant dramatic opera, first performed in 1819, that deserves to be better known. Derived from Sir Walter Scott's famous poem, the story concerns love both unrequited and requited amid rebellious Scottish clans, as the titular lady is wooed by two rivals while her heart is pledged to another. Given Rossini's luxuriant orchestration and emphasis on romance, one can't help feeling that the composer had the hills of Tuscany more in mind than the rugged Scottish highlands. A succession of highly charged scenas contrast with languid melodies, such as Ellen's delightful introductory "Oh mattutini albori", making this a less bloodily melodramatic companion-piece to Donizetti's Scott-inspired Lucia di Lammermoor.