Various Artists, “Woody Guthrie at 100!, Live at the Kennedy Center” (Legacy, two discs plus DVD, released Tuesday). There are no songs like these anywhere else. There are lines here whose resonance will remain for as long as America continues trying to be a civilization and not just a capitalist version of the wilderness. Rosanne Cash sings “I Ain’t Got No Home” (a perfect song, she calls it in some awe) and “Pretty Boy Floyd” (which observes inarguably “some will rob you with a six-gun/some with a fountain pen/you’ll never see an outlaw/drive a family from their home”). “This Land is Your Land” – American folkdom’s national anthem – gives us as great a quatrain as any: “As I went walking, I saw a sign/It said ‘No Trespassing.’/On the other side, the sign said nothing/That side was made for you and me.” Ani DiFranco sings “Deportee” with Ry Cooder, Donovan – no less – sings “Riding in My Car,” Judy Collins performs “Pastures of Plenty,” Lucinda Williams “House of Earth,” Jackson Browne “You Know the Night,” John Mellencamp “Do Re Mi” and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott does “1913 Massacre.” It’s an elaborate box set, all from the Kennedy Center on Oct. 14, 2012. Granted there’s something anomalous about “official” Washington presenting music whose glory is its stubborn refusal to be “official.” But then it’s music that establishmentarian America is proud of for the simplest of reasons: it has no choice. The other side of the sign, after all, was made for you and me. 4 stars (Jeff Simon)


Piia Komsi, “Solaris: Solace in Song” (Proprius). This disc arrived when I was in need of solace, so I got right to it. I was happy to find the haunting, soaring “Pie Jesu” of Lili Boulanger, the tragically short-lived sister of composing pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, is very poignant considering her early death. She wrote it in the last year of her life (she died at 24). It was like Mozart and his Requiem, genuine. Another highlight is the setting by Franz Schubert of the Salve Regina, one of the world’s most consoling prayers - heartfelt but joyous, with none of the sorrow you come to expect from Schubert, another tragically short-lived marvel. Bach’s “Aus Liebe” (“From Love”) from the St. Matthew Passion is comforting in that way only Bach can be, leaving you feeling that the universe is in good hands. I also found Aleksander Raskatov’s “Kaddish,” with its mournful quotes from Jewish folk melody, moving. Aside from the calm, controlled voice of Finnish coloratura soprano Piia Komsi, the disc is not what I consider soothing. It is heavy on the music of contemporary Finnish composers. Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky’s “Lacrimosa,” though technically impressive with its vocal note bending, hurts your ears. Tapio Tuomela’s disjointed treatment of Gregorian chants, sung robotically by Komsi, sounds weird and mocking. To top things off the liner notes, in English and Finnish, are hard to follow, particularly if you are jangled and in need of solace. 2.5 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Violin Lullabies, Rachel Barton Pine, violin, Matthew Hagle, piano (Cedille). These 25 tracks all sound pretty much alike, with the same tempos and textures, and after a few of them, I found myself yawning. But then, isn’t that the idea? Violinist Rachel Barton Pine recently had a baby and so she personally selected the lullabies she plays here on her ancient Stradivarius. She includes the low-hanging fruit, such as Gershwin’s “Summertime” (zzzzz) and the lullabies by Brahms and Schubert. You can’t hear the Schubert “Cradle Song” too much, and Pine plays it like a Fritz Kreisler piece, bringing out its Viennese beauty. There are also pleasant surprises, though, lullabies by composers including Ottorino Respighi, William Grant Still and Igor Stravinsky (the Berceuse from “The Firebird). It’s a treat to hear the brooding, sensuous “Oror” by Alan Hovhaness and Ravel’s Lullaby on the name “Gabriel Faure.” The disc ends with the lovely “Wiegenlied” by the great Max Reger. Brava to Pine. She rocks that cradle. 3.5 stars (M.K.G.)


Marc Cary, “For the Love of Abbey” (Motema). Marc Cary is his generation’s Mal Waldron. Pianist Waldron’s most famous gig was accompanying Billie Holiday. Cary somewhat incredibly started out as the pianist for Betty Carter and then spent 12 years accompanying Abbey Lincoln. This solo piano disc of Lincoln’s original music, says Cary, “is my celebration of an incredible person – composer, artist, bandleader and friend. The impact Abbey has had on my career and family is just so big that I had to show her music to the world through my heart and soul.” Without Lincoln’s lyrics, then, Lincoln’s music has surprising strength simply as solo piano jazz, even though it’s doubtful any other jazz musician would be likely to adapt even one of these Lincoln originals as part of his or her band book. There is, to be sure, no question of Cary’s devotions to Lincoln and her music, which makes the disc a triumph of emotional conviction over style and even substance. 3 stars (J.S.)


Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway, “Duke at the Roadhouse: Live in Sante Fe” (iPo). The creaminess of Eddie Daniels’ sound on clarinet and his instrumental fluency make him the greatest living jazz clarinet virtuoso by far (Don Byron and Anat Cohen seem to be musicians first, clarinetists second). It’s the very nature, though, of Daniels’ clarinet virtuosity, that makes it so exciting that he plays as much tenor saxophone as he does these days. It’s also what makes this particular disc with pianist Roger Kellaway so exceptional. If ever there were two jazz musicians on the same wavelength, it’s Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway. As if that weren’t enough, cellist James Holland joins them on four tracks. The repertoire is solid Ellingtonia, beginning with “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and moving on to a gorgeous “Creole Love Call” over a rocking piano part by Kellaway. By that time, you’re aware that there isn’t going to be a single bar of this duet and trio music (which was a benefit performance in Santa Fe) that isn’t completely fresh, if not sometimes wildly original. It’s chamber jazz for the pure pleasure of it all – both in the playing and the listening. 4 stars (J.S.)


John O’Gallagher, “The Anton Webern Project” (Whirlwind). The lunatic jazz disc of the year, by far. What could possibly be nuttier than a disc of fusionish electric jazz based on the music of Anton Von Webern, the original serialist and, by any inherent assay, probably the least assimilable composer for jazz purposes of any in the 20th century? So it’s O’Gallagher’s effort to imagine “what would Webern’s music sound like if he were a jazz musician living in New York City today?” In essence, it’s more or less conventional jazz improvisation on serial themes (serial improvisation being, no doubt, more of the “blip blop” aleatoric variety). It’s certainly adventurous by conventional jazz standards but it’s not, in any way, truly Webernian in any way that the composer would have recognized. On the other hand, you can bet your week’s allotment of coffee and strudel that he’d have gotten a bit of a kick out of it. 3 stars (J.S.)


Nick Sanders Trio, “Nameless Neighbors” (Sunnyside). A young multicultural jazz pianist from New Orleans, Sanders is produced here, on his first trio disc, by pianist Fred Hersch, no less. Sanders, at this stage, sounds like a reasonably interesting academic pianist except for one rather wonderful exploration of jazz repertoire that ought to be far more familiar than it is: Herbie Nichols’ “Orse at Safari.” Don’t let Monk’s “Manganese” fool you. It’s not a seldom heard Monk tune at all but rather the familiar tune commonly known as “We See.” 2.5 stars (J.S.)

Pop/New Age

The Piano Guys, “2” (Portrait). The Piano Guys is actually a duo from Utah with only one pianist, Jon Schmidt. His bandmate is Steven Sharp Nelson, who plays a variety of cellos and “cello percussion.” A few other people pitch in on vocals, percussion, whatever. Their music is on the quiet end of the New Age spectrum, the loud end being the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They are tremendously popular. The Piano Guys, who made their name on YouTube, are capable of some elegant and moving performances. One popular video has them performing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” in a biblical setting, with a simplicity that plays up the grace of the ancient chant. (“We are all spiritual guys,” the Piano Guys say on their website.) This disc, aside from a lovely “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” is on the lighter side. The Piano Guys lose originality points because they take tunes many others have seized on before. “Begin Again” has bits of Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” and “Rockelbel’s Canon,” of course, comes, yawn, from Pachelbel. “Mission Impossible” involves Mozart’s well-known students’ sonata, K. 545. I get the idea that most musicians of this type, though classically trained, never bothered to listen to much classical music outside of class. There’s also a cute Charlie Brown medley; a kind of Irish reel called “Waterfall”; an original cello take on “Happy Together”; and a twinkly “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The longest track is a five-minute meditation on Howard Shore’s music for “The Lord of the Rings.” The Piano Guys are coming to UB in October. I’m already planning on going. 3 stars (M.K.G.)