> Classical

Duo Scorpio, "Scorpion Tales" (American Modern Recordings). Duo Scorpio is a pair of women from New York City who play harps. They are Kathryn Andrews and Kristi Shade and they are both Scorpios, even born on the same day, in the same year. On this album, with copious explanatory notes, they pay tribute to the scorpion. I prefer to enjoy the music on its own, without reading up on arcane details such as the scorpion's mating habits or the heat scale of a blistering chile pepper. Shut up and play, you know? The title piece, "Scorpion Tales," was commissioned from Robert Paterson. It's modern music, but a lot of it is more enjoyable than you would think. The best feature is "Promenade a deux," even if it is about scorpion mating which, the less we hear about that, the better. It is like a Baroque dance. The harp's texture is gentle and soothing. There is occasional percussion, probably hitting the harp or clapping a couple of pieces of wood, and though it can be annoying it does not get out of hand. The showers of notes in Stephen Taylor's "Unfurl" sound like wind chimes. The gently percussive "Le Jardin des Paons" by Bernard Andres, is pleasant. "Raga," based on Indian music, lends a world music, avant-garde note. It is more sound effect than music. It will be nice to see what this duo will do next. Even if you do not embrace every track on the album, you could be bitten by the bug. Review: 2 1/2 stars (Out of 4) (Mary Kunz Goldman)

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Nelson Freire, Brasileiro: Villa-Lobos and Friends performed by pianist Nelson Freire (Decca). It isn't many classical listeners who think of pianist Nelson Freire as something as chauvinistic and potentially limiting as "Brazilian." A pianist for Liszt? Sure. Chopin too. All the great classical-era concertos, not to mention duets with the formidable Martha Argerich (who isn't exactly thought of, first thing, as Argentinian either.) But here we have the pianist from the country that gave us Guimar Novaes exploring the piano music of his native country – which, if you ask me, is as good a reason for any pianist to record a fist-and-a-half full of Villa-Lobos as any. In one of his more waspish and exasperating moments, Stravinsky rhetorically asked why, in his musical travels about town, he was always hearing music he didn't like and it was always by Villa-Lobos. An inherent polarity of approach – natural vs. cosmopolitan – probably accounted for it. The 10 pieces by Villa-Lobos are, obviously, the stars of the disc here, especially the Choros no. 5 "Alma Brasilera" It also includes music by Camargo Guarnieri, Henrique Oswald, Alexandre Levy, Joaquin Antonio Barrozo Netto, Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez, Claudio Santoro and Francesco Mignone. Performance by the great 67-year old master is poetic and exceptional in every way, however predictably. Review: 3 stars (Jeff Simon)

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Rexa Han, "A Tribute to the Piano" (Victor Elmaleh Collection). Rexa Han is a promising up-and-coming Chinese-born pianist currently coached by pianist and author David Dubal. She has a clear and concise technique that shines especially in Bach's English Suite in D Minor. Each movement of this suite is a delight. The concluding Gigue is thrilling, crisp and confident. The Gavotte movement also charms, with the robust, staccato outer sections contrasting nicely with the more legato trio interlude. You also hear that contrast in the Chopin Sonata No. 2, with the heavy Funeral March nicely framing the dreamy theme at the movement's center. The concluding Presto is more like a wisp than a storm – that's a matter of taste, and it is fascinating how many different approaches pianists bring to this mini-movement. Stravinsky's Etude in F-Sharp Major is 1 minute 41 seconds of fun, brimming with derring-do. You get the sense that Han has come out of the gate running, and there's a beauty to that. I love her off-the-beaten-track selections. She gives a good swagger to Liszt's "Rigoletto paraphrase," and flair to Granados' "El Amor y La Muerte." There are moments, though, when she does not give the sense of making the music her own, and when emotion takes a back seat to technique. Moszkowski's "Caprice Espagnol," a showpiece I love, is faster than it needs to be and she misses the music's bittersweet romance. Han does, however, have strength and power and a feel for the music – a sense I imagine will only get better. Review: 3 stars (M.K.G.)

> Jazz/Folk Crossover

Various Artists, Home – Gift of Music, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief (Sunnyside, available Sept.11). An uncommonly lovely disc with an uncommonly beautiful purpose. To most of us, the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan in 2011 was a succession of utterly unfathomable TV news pictures of wreckage and gigantic tsunamis sluicing cars and trucks inland like so many discarded candy wrappers, To Jazz Gallery programming director Rio Sikairi, it was "unprecedented disaster" whose "need for relief remains." And so she collected this exceptional collection of singers and musicians to create a disc for Tsunami Relief. Its beauty is often stunning and its combinations of musicians so rare as to be singular – Alan Hampton and Gretchen Parlato, for instance, with pianist Taylor Eigsti on "If It Was." Claudia Acuna – so winning in her performance at the Albright-Knox Gallery – is beautiful on Abbey Lincoln's "Music Is the Magic" and the two songs by Becca Stevens ("Coming Home," "Tillery") give you a post-Norah Jones artist whose combination of "folk music" and jazz is so fresh but yet so natural you think you've been hearing it all your life. Reedman John Ellis contributes his first recorded vocal to the disc's title track, which he wrote. Nor is he the only instrumentalist singing here. Listen to trumpet player Leron Thomas singing with Parlato on "Leave Rebirth." All the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, Japan for volunteers to rebuild homes destroyed. Every participant donated time and compositions. A beautiful project well realized. Review: 3 1/2 stars ?(J. S.)

> Jazz

Erena Terakubo with Legends, "New York Attitude" (4Q). Only two of the four musicians Japanese alto saxophonist Erena Terakubo records with here are accurately called legends – pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter. But it's not the fault of drummer Lee Pearson and trumpet player Dominack Farinacci that the young woman was able to enlist such fabled company. It's only Terakubo's second disc in her life and her first to be released here. Any ideas why the alto saxophone happens to be the horn of choice for two of the more impressive young female ?players in jazz – the other is Grace Kelly? Whatever the reason, this band cooks up a storm and lets its baby-faced young leader excel on everything from the title track to Bobby Timmons' "This Here" and the final "Body and Soul." Review: 3 stars (J.S.)