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Soundtrack

“Nashville: The Music of Nashville” Season 2, Volume 2 (Big Machine). Let’s remember that the reason Callie Khouri’s country music soap had so much musical cred from Day One is that writer/creator Khouri (once upon a time she gave us “Thelma and Louise” and, with Ridley Scott, successfully fought the bean counters to preserve its astonishing ending) is married to T-Bone Burnett, who took an all-important hand in making sure it all worked. That was several discs ago. The producer here is Buddy Miller, which means that it all coasts along nicely and convincingly without ever reaching out of your speakers, grabbing your lapels and smirking “listen to that.” For that, you want to hear, say, the soundtrack Burnett put together for the Coen Brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis.” ΩΩ½ (Jeff Simon)

Jazz

Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte, “The New Standard” (Rare Noise). It was, according to one quote from Bobby Previte, the great composer/drummer/leader from Buffalo, “the simplest, chillest record I have ever done. We set up, went out, had a nice lunch, went back to the studio and three hours later it was all done in one take.” And it sounds that way, with a delicious multigenerational jazz trio that had never played before. Pianist and organist Jamie Saft has played with Slobber Pup and Metallic Taste as well as Jane Ira Bloom and Previte’s Coaltion of the Willing. At Previte’s suggestion, he wrote simple soulful grooves for the three of them to play. While it’s fine to hear Saft’s chord riffs and Milt Bucknerish locked-hand solos, it’s the grooves set up by Swallow with Previte on brushes behind him that are the true delight of the disc. The title track is a kind of honky-tonk version of Keith Jarrett cum Floyd Kramer with Previte using mallets and decorating it with all manner of exquisite percussive sounds the way a good student of Jan Williams at the University at Buffalo ought to. When the sound waves subside, Swallow solos unemphatically like a musician who knows he is being completely understood. ∆∆∆½ (J.S.)

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JC Sanford, “Views from the Inside” (Whirlwind); Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, “Life in the Bubble” (Telarc). Here are two completely polemic views of the State of the Jazz Orchestra in 2014. On JC Sanford’s impressive “Views from the Inside,” you’ve got a jazz orchestra in the mode of Sanford’s teacher Bob Brookmeyer and, before him Gerry Mulligan, Gary McFarland, Gil Evans and Duke Ellington. On the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band’s “Life in the Bubble,” you’ve got something you could comfortably label neo-swing, if you thought you needed a label. In the case of Sanford, his eclecticism reaches out to classical music and beyond and is not especially aimed at making a dent in musical commerce. In the case of Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, there are all manner of overt crowd-pleasers, ending the disc with something called “Party Rockers” that’s sung by Judith Hill and, says Goodwin, “grooves relentlessly and Judith is fierce on it.” “Something that can meld the most delicate sensibilities of Faure with metal thrash” is how the notes to “Views from the Inside” limn the disc’s aims. “I’m always trying to turn that corner that isn’t expected,” said trombonist/composer/arranger Sanford. “I was trained in the conventions of swing and big band arranging and I love that idiom but I don’t want to stay in that zone. I’m aiming to avoid the predictable to find different colors and textures.” And so he does on the hugely ambitious “Views from the Inside.” Goodwin, on the other hand, likes to revisit such favorites as the theme from “Get Smart,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” and is pleased by a band that “when it comes time to groove, they know what to do.” When Sanford is not leading his own orchestra, he conducts the extraordinary John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and the Alice Coltrane Orchestra featuring Ravi Coltrane and Jack DeJohnette, among other things. Goodwin used to conduct for Johnny Mathis and is happy to play with Gerald Albright and Dave Koz. Proceed accordingly. ΩΩΩ½ for Sanford, ΩΩ for Goodwin. (J.S.)

Classical

Les Contraltos, (Naive). This is the first I have heard of a series that also includes “Contre-Tenors” and “Sopranos.” The contraltos featured are Sara Mingardo, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Nathalie Stutzmann, Sonia Prina and Delphine Galou. This appears to be a kind of introduction for musical newcomers. Lemieux sings the “Habanera” from “Carmen,” and Stutzmann, the deepest, darkest voice on the disc, gives an extraordinary performance of the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria.” Other things, though, are off the beaten track. It is rich with sacred music: Stutzmann sings the deeply felt Agnus Dei from Bach’s Mass in B Minor as well as part of Haydn’s “St. Cecilia Mass.” Mingardo navigates the Baroque twists and turns of Pergolesi’s tense treatment of the Lenten prayer “Stabat Mater.” They even throw in some songs by Schumann and Reynaldo Hahn, both sung by Lemieux (the disc ends with Hahn’s lovely “A Chloris”). I wish they had included some music of Brahms, who wrote so beautifully for the low female voice. Lemieux has recorded some gorgeous Brahms lieder. I also wish they had included texts. It leads to a much deeper appreciation of these marvelous vocal creations. ΩΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)

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Schubert, Works for Solo Piano Volume One performed by pianist Barry Douglas (Chandos). Clearly a pianist means business when he launches a brand-new cycle of Schubert recordings with the sublime Sonata Op. post D. 960 from 1828, the year of Schubert’s death from syphilis. That’s what happens here in Vol. 1 of a new Schubert cycle by Irish pianist Barry Douglas, the first non-Russian pianist to win Russia’s Tchaikowsky competition since Van Cliburn in the world-shaking victory of 1958 (aided and abetted by judge Sviatoslav Richter who admitted later that he refused, against the competition rules, to vote for any other pianist at all, only Cliburn). Nor does the rest of the disc indicate that a pianist as lyrical and fine as Douglas had any thought of beginning his Schubert disc with low expectations. Also on the disc are a great reading of the “Wanderer” Fantasy Op. 15 D.760 from 1822, “Du bist die Ruh” D. 776 from 1823 and Franz Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s “Ungeduld, D.795” from “Sie schone Mullerin” Op. 23. ΩΩΩ½ (J.S.)

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Mendelssohn, String Quartets performed by The Artemis Quartet (Erato, 2 CDs). The silvery genius of Felix Mendelssohn comes through in this artfully arranged double-CD collection of early, middle period and late music. The Berlin, Germany-based Artemis Quartet performed just weeks ago on the Buffalo Chamber Music Society series, demonstrating its trademark vigor and joy in passion. (The musicians also perform while standing, a quirk that sets them apart from other ensembles.) The Artemis also appeared seven years ago on the series, and I remember noting then that the group lived up to its namesake, the goddess of fertility and the hunt. These vivid qualities transcend the personnel changes the group has gone through over the years. Of the musicians who stood on stage in 2007 in Kleinhans Music Hall’s Mary Seaton Room, only one now remains, cellist Eckhart Runge. The other three are all new. Runge has chosen them well, judging from the nuance and delicacy in this music. ΩΩΩ½ (M.K.G.)