Norwegian folk singer Unni Løvlid
Norwegian folk singer Unni Løvlid Credit: Courtesy of Sonic Bids

Peter Margasak,
Reader staff writer

Various artists, Five Days Married & Other Laments: Song and Dance From Northern Greece, 1928-1958 (Angry Mom) This compilation by collector and historian Christopher King focuses on rural music from Greece’s mountainous Epirus region, near Albania on its northwestern border. These songs are far removed from the profane grit and drive of rembetika, and unsurprisingly they’re influenced by Albanian traditions, including its polyphonic vocal music. They reflect upon doomed romance and the hardships of a shepherd’s life, but because the violin and clarinet are ebullient in their sorrow, they’re anything but depressing. Bonus points for the R. Crumb cover art.

Sons of Kemet, Burn (Naim Jazz) This quartet, led by impressive young British reedist Shabaka Hutchings and anchored by the fat, rubbery grooves of tubaist Oren Marshall, fuses jazz, reggae, and funk within a maelstrom of kinetic percussion powered by drummers Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard all year, and each listen has pulled me further in.

Unni Løvlid, Lux (Heilo) Norwegian folk singer Unni Løvlid subverts the usual polite, conservative approach to her traditional repertoire at every turn—singing in a reverberant mausoleum, collaborating with musicians from Senegal, even creating original work with improvisers Hakon Kornstad and Hild Sofie Tafjord. On her latest album she sets antique lyrics and melodies to haunting, austere arrangements featuring the extended techniques of double bassist Hakon Thelin (Poing) and two musicians playing glasses with resonant, organlike tones.

Peter is curious what’s in the rotation of …

<i>Coltrane on Coltrane</i>
Coltrane on Coltrane

Nick Mazzarella, saxophonist, leader of the Nick Mazzarella Trio

Cameron Pfiffner’s Debut in Blues Veteran Chicago saxophonist and composer Cameron Pfiffner recently formed a sextet named after and dedicated to reexamining the somewhat obscure Gene Shaw record Debut in Blues, made for the Argo label in 1963. Pfiffner’s renditions of the source material are outstanding, and his band is full of excellent musicians. Keep an ear open for this group, and though it’s a bit hard to find, check out the original recording.

Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews (Chicago Review Press) John Coltrane was famously taciturn, so his occasional interviews—preserved in liner notes, print media, and bootlegged tapes—have long been prized by his fans. Edited by Chris DeVito, Coltrane on Coltrane collects them all in chronological order, including some that have never before been transcribed from audio. Many of the excerpts assembled here can be found elsewhere, but some of them were new to me, broadening my understanding of Coltrane and his insightful nature.

Eddie Gale, Black Rhythm Happening (Blue Note) Eddie Gale’s 1969 album Black Rhythm Happening is a fascinating confluence of raw earthiness and ethereal sophistication. By turns freewheeling and grooving, the compositions feature a thick horn section interweaving melodies with shimmering human voices, rooted in place by a considerable rhythm section consisting of a guitar, two basses, African percussion, and Elvin Jones. A unique blend of people and ideas creates a cosmic tapestry of sonic exploration on this eccentric classic.

Nick is curious what’s in the rotation of …

Toru Takemitsu, <i>Riverrun, Water-ways, Etc.</i>
Toru Takemitsu, Riverrun, Water-ways, Etc.

Frank Rosaly,
drummer, leader of Green and Gold, Cicada Music

Deathprod, Deathprod box set (Rune Grammofon) Helge Sten scrutinizes elements of sound, repetition, and pacing in this fantastic box set. Every gesture in the collection has been scrupulously considered. His stride and rate of development can be glacial, but this gives the listener ample opportunity to laze in his careful sonic choices, which have forced me to reevaluate how I listen to music. There are virtually no dispensable moments in more than three hours—a rare feat, particularly given that the pieces in this collection contend with so few moving parts.

Roscoe Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey at the Skopje Jazz Festival Roscoe Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey played an exceptional duo a few weeks back at the Skopje Jazz Festival in Macedonia, and it was caught on camera. Mitchell begins on soprano saxophone while Sorey focuses his trombone on spurts of abstract sound, punctuating Mitchell’s wobbling, linear approach. Sorey migrates to drums, then piano, then back to trombone, creating a natural coda. Throughout the concert, Sorey generates form and episodic structure while Mitchell fills the room with everlasting lines and shapes.

Toru Takemitsu, Riverrun, Water-ways, Etc. (Virgin Classics) Toru Takemitsu, who died in 1996, shaped me early on after I discovered him in high school. His work can be compared without much consideration to Messiaen, Berg, Webern, or Debussy, but that’s a broad stroke that disregards the uniqueness of his music. His careful harmony (when there is any) is some of the most powerful and unsettling I’ve heard.