A picture is worth a thousand words.
Following that ancient logic, hearing actual music must be a million times better than reading about it? Rather than written music reviews, we've thus transitioned to curated playlists on YouTube. Whilst audio quality is naturally limited by compression algorithms, the idea is just to introduce you to artists you may not have heard of before. With Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal and more streaming services, it's then child's play to follow up on any discovery that speaks to you. Which is the entire purpose of these Musical Waves features: to hand you a ticket which you can use for your very own ride to new destinations.
Today is about some more recent discoveries that became permanent additions to my music library so bought/downloaded from Qobuz in up to 24/96 resolution. As such certain YouTube links to their individual tracks have embedded in some of my more current reviews; or will in short order to spread the luv around…
The twenty-first in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°21. This one kicks off with the Almarashli Ensemble, then goes to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Amjad Sabri, Sami Yusuf, Abida Parveen and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Tania Kassis, Sœur Marie Keyrouz, Ali Zafar, Motty Steinmetz and Shmueli Ungar.
The nineteenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°19. This one kicks off with the Göksel Baktagir Ensemble, then features Sami Yusuf, Carmen Tockmaji, Marcel Khalifé & Mahmoud Darwish, Antonio Rey, Abeer Nehme, Noel Kharman & Philip Halloun, Nandini Shankar & Mahesh Raghvan, Yarub Smarait & Ghassan Abu Haltam, Mohamed Aly, Ali ElMedydy, Sheikh Ehab Younis, the Cairo Opera Orchestra & Cairo Steps, Robert de Brasov & Oby Israelite, Bilal Karaman, Titi Robin, Olox, The Hu and Caroline Campbell & William Joseph.
The eighteenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°18. This one kicks off with Al Gromer Khan, then features the Warsaw Village Band, A.R. Rahman, the Syrian Expat Orchestra, the National Arab Orchestra, a glossy remix of a Qawwali classic, another with Abida Parveeng, a classic Qawwali with Maqbool Sabri, a Leonard Cohen song dong by a Yiddish wedding ensemble, Turkish Pop with Sibel Can & Hakan Altun, a 1'000-girl choir, Qawwali with Abi Sampa, Aytac Dogan on solo qanun, the Leo Twins in a Quarantine Session, two big Bollywood dance productions, Ali Al-Medydi and a closing instrumental by Serkan Hakki.
Treading the fine line between trite schmaltz and full-fat Unterhaltungsmusik is tightrope business. Do pianist Nicole Heartseeker and reed man Mulo Francel of Quadro Nuevo fame manage on Forever Young? It'll depend on mood and sensibilities. In typical GLM label fashion, sonics are high brow to make fine demo material. Packaged as a "relaxed conversation" and "fascinating dialogue" between tenor sax and piano, on downtempo Lieder-type fare by past masters, the result is no swingé Jazz-the-Classics Eugen Cicero, Jacques Loussier or Markus Schinkel. Neither do Jan Garbarek and David Orlovsky meet Hillliard Ensemble and Singer Pur in a mystic medieval melange. This is more debutante meets dashing suitor, the two serenading each other on spinet and recorder with "Für Elise" in a Jane Austin flick. It's higher on romantic promise than artistic depth. Yet play it après dinner to some fine conversation and it'll hit all the right notes. That's particularly so because Mulo Francel has very sophisticated control over his pianissimo. He treats the potentially raunchy wail of the tenor sax like an elegiac concert oboe. And Nicole Heartseeker plays it straight to never attempt anything virtuoso or syncopated. Forever young like an evergreen? The original compositions are; these duets not so much. But again, this concept walks a very thin line to avoid kitsch. Unterhaltungsmusik is music for entertainment. That ought to be true for all music but today it signifies 'lite'. Here it's tacked onto basic classical repertoire. Forever Young is what a Viennese coffee house might commission whose crowds fill some leisure time with Kaffee und Kuchen.
The seventeenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°17. This one kicks off with Amr Diab, then features Assala Nasri, Ghalia Benali, Hiba Tawaji, Kadim Al Sahir, Abed Azrié, Wael Jassar, Julia Boutros, Lema Chamamyam, Natacha Atlas, Omar Bashir, José Salinas & Amir John Haddad, Vicente Amigo & Pele, Al-Andalus Ensemble, Cengiz Kortuglu & Hakan Altun, Bülent Ersoy, Hüsnü Senlendiriçi and Omar Faruk Tekbilek.
The sixteenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°16. This one kicks off with Dalshad Said, then features Fadia Tomb El-Hage by herself or with Mike Massy, Mike Massy, Adnan Joubran, Thierry 'Titi' Robin & Faiz Ali Faiz, Imbrahim Maloof, Sting and Daymé Arocena.
The fifteenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°15. This one kicks off with Fahir Atakoglu, then features Claude Chalhoub, Andreas Vollenweider, Robert Wolf, Amira Medunjanin & the TronheimSolistene, Çagri Sertel & Çag Erçag, Tanja Tzarovska, Ayfer Vardas, Mirage of Deep, G.E.N.E., Tulku, Prem Joshua, Anoushka Shankar,Nafas, Bustan Abraham, Anouar Brahem and the Taskim Trio with Erkan Kolçac.
The fourteenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°14. This one kicks off with Hayko Cepkin & Burak Malcok, then features Sedef Erçetin & Serkan Alkan, Yuval Ron & Uyanga Bold, Matthieu Saglio, Dorantes, José Antonio Rodgríuez & Jorge Strunz, Antonio Rey, Diego el Cigala, Eddie Daniels, Haris Alexiou & Yamin Levy, Mahsa Vahdat and Mercan Dede.
Unifony I, a collaboration between Dutch multi disciplinarians Minco Eggersma and Theodoor Borger, took the listener on a 12-track musical journey with Matthias Eick on trumpet. Unifony II goes further. For the second installment, Minco and Theodoor asked pianist Aaron Parks and saxophonist Oskar Gudjonsson to join who both agreed after hearing the first album. Aaron was touring Europe at the time to come straight to the studio after his last show. We've followed him since first hearing him in Seattle at age 16. We admire his improvisational talent and his compositions played either as sideman or with his own bands. After some initial explorations, the vibe in the Dutch studio came together for this new project. The right atmosphere soon led to inspired musical cooperation and Aaron improvised on the existing compositions of Minco and Theodoor. This netted the 12 tracks which made it to the final album; but not just yet. First Oskar Gudjonsson too improvised over what had been recorded. He did so from a studio in his native Iceland with his signature soft voice. Gudjonsson isn't a household name outside Iceland but some may know him from the jazz-fusion band Mezzoforte and a trio with Richard Andersson. With the final recordings mixed and added, the tracks were sent to Bob Ludwig for expert mastering. The result is now available for streaming, pressed to CD and high-quality vinyl.
Just like the first Unifony, consecutive tracks form a landscape which invites the listener to let go, ideally with dimmed lights and the volume low. Now multiple layers suffusing all cuts can be enjoyed fully and even make repeat loops interesting. The music doesn't bore but keeps fresh and enticing due to the very relaxed manner in which the album was recorded and produced – no studio time pressure, no schedule pressure, all the needed vintage and new equipment on hand. When playing Unifony I and II back to back, the listener is in for an almost therapeutic mind-cleansing session. That's an advantage for streaming media. When playing the vinyl version, one has to get up now and then to flip the LP. That could break the spell. In any delivery format however, this album is highly recommended and Grimm Audio who contributed hardware rate it very highly on their blog as well. M&H
The thirteenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°13. This one kicks off with Marjan & Mahsa Vahdas and the Kronos Quartet, then features Homajoun Shajarian, Anna Maria Jopek & Branford Marsalsis, Jóhann Jóhannssen, Maya Fridman, The World Quintet, Larsen & Loutchek, The Qotob Trio, Göksel Baktagir, Zsófia Boros, Vassilis Tsabropoulos, Wael Jassar, Mine Gecili, Kamo Seyranyan and Merujan Sargsyan.
The twelveth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°12. This one starts with Antonio Rey then features Gerardo Núñez, Juan Manuel Cañizares, Niño Josele, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Santiago Lara, Tomatito, Vicente Amigo, Juan Carmona, Josemi Carmona, José Antonion Rodríguez, John Amir Haddad and Antonio El Titi.
The eleventh in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°11. This one starts with Catherine Lara & Juan Carmona, then features Falete, the Kiko Ruiz Quartet, Rafaél Cortez, Joana Jiménez & Miguel Poveda, Vicente Pradal, Arbat, Norig, Talisman, O'Djila, Kal, Cafe Aman Istanbul, George Dalaras, Quadro Nuevo, Khalil Chahine, Robert Wolf and Marius Apostol.
The tenth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°10. This one starts with Nasiba Abdullayeva, then features Petar Ralchev, Dominguinhos + Sivuca + Oswaldhino, Elza Soares, Maria Marquez, Mariana Ramos & Angelique Kidjo, the Trio Esperanca, Paula Morelenbaum & Sakamoto, Nancy Vieira, Stéphane Fernandez & Mario Canonge and Andy Narell.
The ninth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°9. This one starts with Tefilo Chantre, then features El Hadj N'Diaye, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Coco Mbassi, Dobet Gnahore, Idrissa Diop & Ralph Thamar, Emeline Michel, Bobi Céspedes, Razia, Orchestra Baobab, Soumaya Baalbaki and Toufic Farroukh.
The eighth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°8. This one starts with Mediterráneo, then features Cheikh Lô, Salif Keita, Khadja Nin, the Rundek Cargo Trio, Anoushka Shankar, A.R.Rahman & the Berklee Ensemble, Mariza & Tito Paris, Sevda Alekperzadeh, José Mercé & Pablo Alborán, India Martinez, Homayoun Shajarian, Natasha Atlas, Ibrahim Tatlises, Duke Bojadziev, Etnosfera and Mari Samuelsen.
The seventh in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°7. This one starts with Djelem, then features Pierre Bluteau & Pascal de Loutchek, Joscho Stephan + Richard Smith + Rory Hoffmann, Louis Winsberg + Antonio El Titi + Rocky Gresset, Bratsch, Nedim Nalbantoglu & Roberto de Brasov, Romane & Stochelo Rosenberg, Marius Apostol & Angelo Debarre, Robin Nolan, Bilal Karamam and the Dan Gharibian Trio.
The sixth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°6. This one starts with Julia Boutros, then features Cag Ercag, Patrick Chartol, Mamak Khadem, Sezen Aksu, Yasmin Levy, Kol Simcha, Asita Hamidi, Bilal Karamam, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Funda Arar, Volkan Konak, Rubato and Homayoun Shajarian.
The fifth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°5. This one starts with Brazilian sambista Alcione, then features Strunz & Farah, George Dalaras, Haris Alexiou, Giannis Parios, Jagjit Singh, Jordi Bonell, Louis Winsberg, Eddie Daniels, Romane, Frédéric Manoukain, the John Jorgenson Quintet and Corlulu Savas.
The fourth in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°4. This one kicks off with Robert Miles & Trilok Gurtu, then features Hector Zazou & Swara, Maneesh de Moor & Prem Joshua, Michael Brook, Mercan Dede, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Bob Holroyd, Burak Malcok, Erkan Ogur, Fahir Atakoglu, Yildiran Güz, Aytac Dogan and Jai Uttal.
The third in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°3. This one kicks off with Brian Keane & Omar Faruk Tekbilek, then features Amr Diab, Mohamed Rouane, Adnan Joubran, Dhafer Youssef, Karim Baggili, Wael Jassar, Abed Azrié, Omar Bashir, Jamshied Sharifi, Titi Robin, Ofra Haza, Vassilis Saleas & Chico and the Gypsies.
The second in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°2. This begins with Oliver Dragojevic, then features Sevda Alekperzadeh, Sevara Nazarkhan, Joscho Stephan, G.E.N.E., Randy Tico, Indialucía, Miguel Poveda, Alba Molina, Diego El Cigala & Mercedes Sosa, Curandero, Sary & Ayad Khalife, Martin Tillman and Amir John Haddad.
The first in a series of YouTube-based playlists: Musical Waves N°1. This one kicks of with the Taksim Trio, then features Vicente Amigo, Alim Qasimov, Adel Shalaby, Estas Tonne, Fazil Say, Khalil Chahine, El Cigala, Aymee Nuviola, Alain Pérez and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
The absolute fun part of visiting an audio show is not just meeting new like-minded people. It's discovering new music. There's so much of it 'out there' but how to meet it? In the olden days we had pirate radio stations. Those often played wicked music without any control from record companies to simply explore the musical tastes of a DJ working under a nome du guerre. Pirate radio stations were illegal and one's own enjoyment didn't override that harsh fact.
At the 2019 Warsaw show we entered a room whose Tascam open-reel deck was its pièce the resistance. Well, the visible piece. Aurally there was more and it was a Hammond B3 that first announced itself. Next a very live a drum kit entered which we really enjoyed. Once we learnt that the album was available on vinyl, we and the record were sold. Back home we dug into this live-in-the-studio affair called In a sentimental Mood featuring Polish jazz legends Wojtek Karolak on organ, Adam Czerwinski on drums, Tomak Grzegorski on tenor sax, Robert Majewski on flügelhorn and Marcin Wadolowski on guitars. This limited 500-piece edition on heavy pristine vinyl pressed by DMS in Plymouth again had the same effect on us as it did in Warsaw. Eight tracks alternate Duke Ellington and Sonny Rollins standards with Polish originals. This combo makes for interest throughout to transcend yet another standards collection.
The actual recording was made in Gdansk while the equipment was a selection of the finest all-analog gear still kicking. Such productions create exciting timing and tuning. From Gdansk the master tapes shipped to Abbey Road where not only mastering but DMM copper cutting took place which led to high-quality pressings. Bravo for a true audiophile recording that's not just the sonic goods but of truly fine music which happens to be recorded as it should, mastered as it should and pressed as it should. ACRECORDS.PL ACR 009. M&H
After acquiring In a Sentimental Mood, we were gifted with another ACrecords called Grooveberek, of the MAP trio playing with Krzesimir Debski. The MAP are Marcin Wadollowski on guitars, Adam Czerwinski on drums and Piotr Lemanczyk on bass. Guest Krzesimir Debski took care of violin, Fender piano and some vocals. After In a Sentimental Mood, our hopes were high to hear another interesting plus well recorded, mastered and pressed outing. Again the recording studio was in Gdansk, the mastering from Abbey Road Studios and the pressing on 180-gram vinyl. Alas, our disillusion couldn't have been greater playing this back at home. No matter how carefully made, processed and pressed, we cannot stand a recording that has one of its participants play out of tune. Mind you, that's not just one off-pitch note to remind us that it's not robots but humans playing. It's on every track where this player figures. The guilty party here was violinist Krzesimir who in our opinion makes the album unbearable to listen to. How could this have slipped through the cracks? M&H
Marja & Henk forwarded me one track for a second opinion. I heard the same. It reminded me of a Gary Karr track where the bassist plays some Albioni or Pachebel. It's been a staple of audio show demos. Each time I hear it, I bolt from the room. The man is so sorrily out of tune. Yet everyone else sits there transfixed in their seats following poor musicianship. Apparently pitch sensitivity between listeners varies widely.