After Janiva Magness added a 2016 Grammy nomination to her 27 Blues Music Award nominations - with seven wins, including Entertainer of the Year - she might have taken at least a short rest on her laurels. Instead, one of the preeminent voices in contemporary American roots music has raised the bar for herself. Magness' fourteenth album, Love Is an Army, is a brilliantly crafted bridge between the past and present, blending the echoes of classic soul and country music with timeless themes of love and the very contemporary sound of protest.
Three Blind Mice Blu-spec CD reissue series! Limited paper sleeve edition! Kunihiko Sugano is a unique jazz pianist who is known for his huge talent, a pianistic approach reminiscent of Erroll Garner, and a sensitive nature that made it difficult for him to play in front of a large audience. Considering the latter issue, the live performances contained in this CD, recorded at a big hall in Tokyo for a jazz festival produced by the Three Blind Mice label, was a huge success. It is mesmerizing to hear Sugano's probing and exploratory introductions, relentless swing once he gets going, and palpable joy of making music on the spot. The trio, augmented with conga player Yoichi Ogawa, does a great job as well.
Due likely to his other careers as a pop artist, producer, classical composer, actor, and fashion model, Ryuichi Sakamoto the film scorer has averaged less than one film a year since his delightfully melodic debut, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence in 1983. But the Academy Award winner (The Last Emperor) has clearly eschewed quantity for quality, and his often-chilling music for Love Is the Devil (the first feature by vidoegrapher John Maybury–a disturbing portrait of artist Francis Bacon and his dark, obsessive relationship with his model/lover, George Dyer) is no exception. Sakamoto has long resisted composing mere musical narration for his film assignments; here he gets inside the characters by using the diverse palette and electronic techniques gleaned from his often cutting-edge pop work. This masterful melange of samples, treated piano, electronics, and white noise plays like a modern horror masterpiece, an eerie techno-concerto that owes more to Sakamoto's days as a student of electronic music and the avant-garde than to his sunny turn as leader of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Think Bernard Herrmann displaced by an ocean and half-a-century of technology.
John Pizzarelli's singing has improved through the years, he has become a particularly strong guitarist (very adept at fast tempos), and his likable personality has remained as constant as his love for swing-era tunes. Joined by a swinging big band arranged by Don Sebesky in the style of Count Basie, Pizzarelli and his trio (with pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist Martin Pizzarelli) play enthusiastically on a set of swingers and ballads. Although the slower material is fine, it is the romps (particularly "Avalon," "Little Girl," "Rhythm Is Our Business" and the instrumental "Say Hey Kid") that are most memorable. An enjoyable outing.