Thursday, June 18, 2009

In review--Jazzing it up!

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Book One
World Village

New Orleans,also known as the Crescent City has a long tradition of jazz and other genres of music. In fact the city's music scene could be called a multicultural spiced stew. While the wake of Hurricane Katrina which hit ground in New Orleans in 2005 curtailed the club scene and the lives of thousands of people, including musicians, these same determined and tenacious musicians helped the New Orleans residents to bounce back.

Musicians have been at the heart of the rebuilding effort through giving benefit concerts, producing fund and awareness raising albums, as well as, Terence Blanchard's Requiem for Hurricane Katrina (A Tale of God's Will). The music coming out of the Crescent City simmers on the front burner and Irvin Mayfield, Jr., Artistic Director of New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, composer and trumpeter is among some of the hottest New Orleans musicians. In fact, Book One, which features New Orleans jazz, big band swing, and salsa, sizzles, snaps and shakes about.
There are plenty of horns here, held down by bass, drums, piano, clarinet and soulful vocals. From the opener 7th Ward Blues (heavily flooded area after Hurricane Katrina hit), to the foot tapper Move On Ahead featuring blues singer John Boutte, Book One will get listeners going, while also lifting moods. I believe that this kind of music has kept the Crescent City residents' spirits up. Beat moves to salsa rhythms and one of my favorite tracks, In Love All Over Again Johnaye Kendrick (an emerging talent)treats us to her earthy vocals.

Anyone needing to lift their moods and feel alive will benefit from a listen or two or three of this recording. New Orleans Jazz Orchestra is more than a band. It is also a nonprofit organization whose mission is to "Inspire freedom and culture in the individual and the global community by creating authentic, engaging jazz experiences while celebrating the origins and transforming the future of jazz." This sounds like a good cause to me. How about you, are you going to jump on the Crescent City jazz train?

World Village

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In review--Visionary Prophetess

Voice of Blood
Hildegard von Bingen
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/BMG

Anyone interested in the healing powers of music must include at least one recording of the medieval Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen's inspired chants in his or her collection. While I personally have not experienced any healings from Hildegard's repertoire, I am inspired by this beautiful music nonetheless and have read of others experiencing personal healing from Hildegard's divinely channeled music. Others have told me of mystical experiences associated with these sacred chants.

Hildegard would in our time be considered an energy or alternative healer. With no training or certification, Hildegard channeled directly from God information on healing with plants, nutrition/diet, sacred art such as mandalas she created and the sacred chants that are still being recorded today by such ensembles as Anonymous 4, Sequentia and other vocal groups. And similar to many healers and mystics of our time, in order for Hildegard to bring this energy to this earthly realm and experience, she suffered her share of illnesses, mainly severe headaches, not uncommon with mystics and saints through the ages.

So for all of you healers out there dealing with chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, Lyme disease, cancer, MS and other ailments, know that you are not alone and perhaps the energy coming through you to shed light on the earth has its side effects. And of course, I recommend adding sound and music therapy to your modalities to help you along in your healing, in case you have not already considered the healing power of music. Some of you have reached that conclusion and are musicians as well as, sound healers. We are holding a precious space to rebirth this planet, and it feels excruciating at times. I know this first hand and experience good and bad days myself.

The early music ensemble/choir Sequentia was founded in 1977 by its co-directors Benjamin Bagby and Barbara Thorton. Certainly similar to Anonymous 4, the Hilliard Ensemble, etc...Sequentia is a well known ensemble with a lot of integrity in regard to performing and interpreting early music. Sequentia recorded all of Hildegard's music that we know of and can be found in a series of recordings. Voice of Blood was recorded in the mid 90s and still sounds fresh and vibrant with beautiful clear tone vocals masterfully performing some of the most challenging sacred songs in the world. Hildegard's nuns sang these songs during the 11th Century, but by today's standards, it takes well-trained vocalists to perform chants that sometimes vault an octave. Certainly these chants could be called breathtaking.

It's a real challenge to delve into Hildegard von Bingen's repertoire and healing modalities in a single review. I do hope to stress the importance of her chants. I encourage you to pick up from a library or purchase either Sequentia's or Anonymous 4's recordings of Hildegard's chants or if you are in the Seattle area check out the Medieval Women's Choir's recording of Hildegard von Bingen and performances of Hildegard's sacred chants. If you are able to see the choir sing at Saint James Cathedral, you would be in for a healing experience you won't soon forget.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In review--Catalan Treasures

Maria del Mar Bonet
World Village

I am quite pleased that labels such as World Village have been releasing and distributing traditional Spanish music recordings in North America. I recently reviewed albums by Uxia from Galicia and Marina Rossell from Barcelona as well as, penning an article on Galician music for World Music Central. I also have a personal connection to Spain which flows in my blood and seeps through my temperament.

When we preserve traditional music, we also preserve dances, languages, instruments, poetry and history. We honor our ancestors when we listen to this old music and we find our roots too that help us feel secure in an unstable world. I have listened to the music of my ancestors on both sides of my family and have been enriched by the experience, though I have not heard much traditional Filipino music during my lifetime, I have delved into Finnish, Spanish, and Puerto Rican musical traditions. I find these quests healing and enlivening.

Hailing from the Spanish island Majorca the decorated Maria de Mar Bonet has preserved traditional Spanish music which she has graced with her velvety alto voice. She arrived in Barcelona in the late 60s, during the Franco era, singing songs in the Catalan dialect, (forbidden at that time by the Franco government). She performed this music on stages in Europe and abroad, collecting prestigious awards and honors in the process.

Raixa, garnered its title from a luxurious garden on the island of Majorca. And similar to such a garden, this live recording (produced in Barcelona in 2001), also gives off a perfume and beautiful blossoms. The mix of original songs, arranged traditional and songs set to Spanish poetry give off a nostalgic scent. Joan Valent and the Ars Ensemble come on board contributing lush arrangements of strings, percussion, accordion, flute and beautiful soprano vocals compliments of Teresa Barrientos that blend well with Bonet's sensual vocals. Dimitri Psonis (bouzouki and percussion), Feliu Gasull (guitar) and Javier Mas (guitar and arch lute) also contribute to this gorgeous collection of songs.

The text often revolves around themes of wind and sea, with fields of grain, gardens, death and broken hearted lovers coming into play their roles. The English translation of the lyrics are breathtaking, but instead of me quoting passages from this album, I recommend that you pick up the recording for your own collection. This hardback book and CD set offers a feast for all of the senses, especially for those readers seeking treasures from Old World Spain.