David Gilmore, “Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard” (Evolutionary Music). The last disc under guitarist Gilmore’s own name came out six years ago. This one makes only three total that he’s released despite a sizable career that has seen him work with the cream of jazz musicians (Wayne Shorter, for one.) This recording of his suite “Numerology” has a truly extraordinary all-star band to plays his music: singer Claudia Acuna providing vocalises, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and percussionist Mino Cinelu. It’s a nine-movement work whose stars are saxophonist Zenon and drummer Watts. That there’s a touch of mysticism to this doesn’t mean there’s anything the slightest bit disembodied about the music which is lusty, earthy and polyrhythmically vibrant throughout. It was smart and then some for Gilmore to record this suite in live performance rather than in a studio presentation. The combination of his compositional ambition and the electrcity of music for a live audience makes for a first-rate jazz disc. ∆∆∆½ (Jeff Simon)


Frank Wess and Johnny Coles, “Two at the Top” (Uptown, two discs). The estimable saxophonist and flutist and cum laude Basieite Frank Wess thinks now that “Two at the Top” is one of the best things he ever did. It’s from a 1983 date that is now seeing its CD release for the first time. Paired with it is another recording of Wess and the great trumpet player Johnny Coles, “Live at Yoshi’s” from 1988. Coles died in 1997 but the enormous appeal of the mainstream 1983 disc with Wess and Coles is the whole group – the great Kenny Barron on piano, Kenny Washington on drums and Reggie Johnson on bass. There’s little on these two discs but ultra-professional ’80s bebop by two of the most reliable mainstream jazz veterans anywhere. They play Gigi Gryce’s classic tune “Minority” and Rodgers Grant’s “Morning Star” on both dates. All due respect to Wess, there’s nothing on these two discs that stretches into superlatives but it’s a meat and potatoes dinner that seems out of its time to be nothing if not comfort food. ∆∆∆ (J.S.)


Mozart, Piano Concertos No. 20 and 21 performed by Jan Lisiecki and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Christian Zacharias (Deutsche Grammophon). Jan Lisiecki, 16, is a piano Wunderkind who has been showered recently with attention. Born in Calgary, he is Polish and looks it, with blond surfer hair and an intelligent smile. He is studying on scholarship at the Glenn Gould School of Piano and recently, he got a deal on Deutsche Grammophon that put him on the fast track. In contrast to all this hoopla, Lisiecki’s playing on this disc shows modesty and simplicity. These two Mozart concertos – both masterpieces that no one should die without hearing – calmly play up the perfection of the music. Tempos are conservative, and though there’s some improvisation, it’s minimum, and unobtrusive. In the D Minor concerto, Lisiecki plays the usual Beethoven cadenzas. In other words, there are no surprises, not that there necessarily should be. Lisiecki’s playing is lovely, crisp without being dry. He has the good fortune to be set up with prime orchestras – he recently was featured with the New York Philharmonic – and with the best conductors. Zacharias knows what he is doing, and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra shines, with a strong, chiseled sound. This recording reminds me of many other performances of these concertos that I have loved over the years. ∆∆∆½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)


Dvorak and Suk, Czech Serenades for String Orchestra performed by Appassionata conducted by Daniel Myssek (Fidelio). If the most famous serenade for string orchestra is, unquestionably, Tchaikovsky’s intensely lovable tribute to Mozart, these two string orchestra serenades by Czech composers – with the addition of Dvorak’s Nocturne for Strings in B-major – represent 19th century Czech music about as charming as it gets. Suk’s Serenade for Strings in E-Flat Major Op. 6 was written while he was a pupil of Dvorak’s so the music here has strong bloodlines, to put it mildly. And the performances by Daniel Myssek’s Canadian chamber orchestra Appassionata are gorgeous. ∆∆∆½ (J.S.)


Bruckner, Symphony No. 7 performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Donald Runnicles (Hyperion). Bruckner’s “Te Deum” is almost an exact contemporary of his seventh symphony. By the time that he’s written it, he’d endured vituperative critics, romantic failures, religious doubts and all manner of assaults on creativity that might have derailed composers of lesser gifts. It’s that very triumph over such a naively uncharmed life that has helped make his symphonies the objects for reverence that they are. It’s great music played by one of the most active Wagenerian conductors around, with a superb orchestra from his native Scotland. You’d expect fine performance, if not entirely perfect, and so it is. ∆∆∆ (J.S.)

New Age

William Close and the Earth Harp Collective, “Holidays” (Top Tomato Records). As New Age Christmas records go this one is kind of appealing. Close, of “America’s Got Talent” fame, plays an instrument of his own design called an Earth Harp which can produce an impressive range of textures. He jingles and plucks and even drones his way on this disc through 10 Christmas numbers, including a few originals. It doesn’t get boring, because almost each song sounds different from the one before, and he is joined by a variety of vocalists. An arrangement of the “Hail Mary” in Latin has a Broadway feeling but it’s reverent. It’s nice that people are still making arrangements of this ancient prayer. Vocalists Laura Vall, Lisbeth Scott and Nadine Christine Duggin have a modern pop sound without ever veering over into the offensive territory of too many curlicues. Vall’s “Silent Night,” sung to the Earth Harp of William Close, is mirrored by a Spanish version, “Noche de Paz,” which concludes the disc. “Earth Prayer” is a spacy take on the Prayer of St. Francis. ∆∆∆ (M.K.G.)