Various Artists, “Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys” performed by artists including Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Keith Richards, Dr. John, Sean Lennon and Courtney Love (Anti-, two discs). Once upon a time (oh, all right, it was 2006 if you must know), there was a crazy collection of pirate songs, sea chanteys and the like produced by, yes, Johnny Depp and film director Gore Verbinski, who so memorably gave the movies Capt. Jack Sparrow, the quintessential staggering rock ’n’ roll pirate. Their partner in crime was the great wildman producer Hal Wilner, whose wonderfully bizarre all-star collections in the past have been, among other things, devoted to the music of Charles Mingus, Harold Arlen, Thelonious Monk and Kurt Weill. They’ve all returned to the scene of the crime with a two-disc set every bit as wild and crazy as the first, featuring – get this now – Tom Waits doing “Shenandoah” in the company of Keith Richards himself (getting it in provided the producers with more than enough reason to do the rest of Vol. 2), Patti Smith and Johnny Depp doing “The Mermaid,” Macy Gray singing “Off to Sea Once More,” Marianne Faithfull and the McGarrigle Sisters on “Flandyke Shore,” Dr. John mixing musical daiquiris on “In Lure of the Tropics,” actress Anjelica Huston singing “Missus McGraw” and, the champion off-key voice in this gorgeous collection of some of the ugliest voices in all of popular music, Iggy Pop doing no less than two songs including the obscene sea ditty “A------ Rules The Navy.” These are not all folk songs, of course. Kurt Weill’s “Pirate Jenny” is here in a version by Shilpa Ray with Nick Cave. Would you believe some lost music by Frank Zappa? Michael Stipe together with Courtney Love? Believe. If your idea of a two-disc collection insists on actual music and not a sloppy and hilarious compendium of aesthetic disobedience, you should keep a safe distance from this. If, on the other hand, disorder and drunkenness and musical misbehavior of all stripes seem completely inviting, you’re unlikely to encounter a raunchier and sloppier bunch anywhere than this. A musical party you won’t forget, no matter what kind of time you have at it. 3½ stars (out of 4) (Jeff Simon)
Tasha Cobbs, “Grace” (EMI Gospel). Raw power doesn’t come only from Iggy Pop recordings, punk rock or grungy heavy metal. On occasion, God’s might – or at least his music, when it comes to gospel –has a gorgeously unrefined resonance. Tasha Cobbs, the worship pastor at the dRream Center Church of Atlanta, has that fresh, unbridled force in her voice and in the way she manipulates a song’s every nuance — each lyric and twist of phrase. That voice, to say nothing of her improvisational skill, goes well with the will of the Holy Spirit. For her major-label debut, Cobbs recorded in a live church setting. Between the room’s natural ambience, the familiarity of her surroundings, and the rush of a live performance, these hallowed tunes come across like conversations among Cobbs, her savior and their congregation. Really loud conversations.
Oddly (and thankfully, for nonbelievers) these songs of praise have a contagious pop feel. When Cobbs sings, “There is power in the name of Jesus” at the beginning of “Break Every Chain,” she’s practically kicking down the chapel doors. The aptly named “Confidence” and the richly enchanting “Get Up” seem to bubble up from Cobb’s toes and burst forth from her vocal cords. 3 stars (A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran, “Hagar’s Song” (ECM). It was once the province of jazz saxophonists to produce some of the most beautiful sounds in all of American music – Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Don Byas, Lester Young, Stan Getz, John Coltrane on ballads. It’s a jazz tradition that has all but vanished, leaving the great tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd the possessor of the most beautiful saxophone tone anywhere in jazz. On this duet disc, he teams with his longtime pianist Jason Moran, who is almost as remarkable a figure in 21st century jazz as Lloyd’s old pianist Keith Jarrett was more than four decades ago. Beauty to an almost unearthly degree is the whole point here, whether they’re playing a lot of Ellingtonia – “Mood Indigo” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Pretty Girl” (aka “Star Crossed Lovers”) – or prime Gershwin (“Bess You Is My Woman Now”) or equally prime Bob Dylan (“I Shall Be Released”) and Brian Wilson (“God Only Knows”). The suite that gives so much beauty to its title is its challenging centerpiece, a suite Lloyd composed in honor of his great-great-grandmother, who, at age 10, he says, was taken from her home in Southern Mississippi and sold to another slave owner in Tennessee. The Dylan song is perfectly logical considering that Lloyd was famous for visiting Dylan in Woodstock. “God Only Knows” is something he’s long wanted to record and describes this version as “like haiku.”
ECM reconfigured chamber jazz completely 40 years ago, and this duet is in its greatest tradition. 3½ stars (J.S.)
Elgar, Cello Concerto and selections from Smetana’s “Ma Vlast” (“My Homeland”) performed by cellist Zuill Bailey and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Krzysztof Urbanski (Telarc). Music critic Kyle Gann has been eloquent about this disc’s virtually dead cover art as a prime exhibit of how companies no longer give a fig about supplying arresting art for classical recordings, the way they did so abundantly in the LP era. He couldn’t have more of a point. Luckily, the music inside is good – a fine performance of Elgar’s magnificent cello concerto by Zuill Bailey and the Indianapolis Orchestra in a good performance of Smetana’s “Ma Vlast.” 3 stars (J.S.)
Bach, Flute Sonatas, Andrea Oliva, flute, Angela Hewitt, piano (Hyperion). The celebrated pianist (and Bach specialist) Angela Hewitt goes collaborative here with this fine disc with flutist Andrea Oliva. Their take on six sonatas is bracing and clear, crisp without being fussy and humorous, too, when the music calls for it. Oliva has a nice natural sound. It’s sweet how she will hold a concluding note, solo, until it fades. There are a few famous movements you will probably recognize. Two sonatas are only attributed to Bach, with another attributed to C.P.E. Bach, so it’s fun to use your ears and try to see if you agree. I agree on the E Flat Sonata, BWV 1031. That ethereal slow movement is just so beautiful. On the other hand I’m not sure about the Sonata in C, BWV 1033. It’s good, but parts of it strike me as un-Bach like. Whatever you think, there is a lot to enjoy in these sparkling creations. 3½ stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)