From the Senate in the 1970s to the presidential campaign trail in 2020, Joe Biden has a long record of going where political pressures push him—and right now they’re pushing him aggressively leftward
The Maritime Suite: “We Have Fed Our Sea For A Thousand Years”
Broadcast by the BBC in the 1980s and available on cassette from Bellamy himself until his death in ’91, this bracing collection of Songs of the Sea from the Saxons to the 19th Century (the subtitle) has never been issued on CD until now. One wants to say “Better late than never” except that Bellamy died by his own hand, depressed over the dwindling demand for a traditional, clarion-voiced folk singer such as he. Strange—you think someone could’ve hooked him up with A Prairie Home Companion.
Music Inspired By the Film Roma
Whatever one makes of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, seeing it is a prerequisite for fully appreciating this homage. Sonido Gallo Negro’s hijinksy “Cumbia del Borras,” for instance, salutes the film’s dog, Billie Eilish’s eerie “When I Was Older” expands on Pepe’s past-life musings, and DJ Shadow’s “We Are Always Alone” distills Sofía’s resentment toward perfidious men into pure atmosphere. Curiously, the two most striking cuts, Beck’s “Tarantula” and Patti Smith’s “Wing,” have no prerequisites at all—that is, unless the originals (by Colourbox and Patti Smith respectively) count.
Jason Ringenberg has made the most of his recent tenure as Artist in Residence of Sequoia National Park. Besides providing him with two back-to-nature songs that even non–tree huggers can love (one calm, the other rip-snortin’), the experience has sharpened his narrative knack (killer Civil War and Ramones tales) and his sense of humor. If the title track’s faux spaghetti-Westernisms and the Waylon Jennings pun in “Lookin’ Back Blues” don’t rustle up some grins, “John the Baptist Was a Real Humdinger” sure as shootin’ will.
Will Todd: Passion Music, Jazz Missa Brevis
St. Martin’s Voices, the Will Todd Ensemble
Arrangements for seven-piece jazz ensemble meet an 18-voice choir and the soulful Shaneeka Simon singing sacred texts originating with the Gospel of John, the Latin Mass, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Herrick, Mrs. C.F. Alexander, Samuel Crossman, Mary Elizabeth Frye, whoever wrote “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” and the Stabat Mater, and the project’s composer and arranger, Will Todd. Sometimes the cross-pollination, especially on the livelier numbers, is merely interesting. At other times, “Were You There” in particular, the results are positively supernal.
Twenty-five years ago, Wynton Marsalis’ PBS series Marsalis on Music introduced children to the basics of music appreciation by juxtaposing jazz-band and orchestral renditions of well-known compositions. Now, thanks to the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s swinging new live recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf (Spartacus), a new generation can experience something similar.
As arranged by the SNJO’s Tommy Smith, a flute still represents the bird, a clarinet the cat, and drums the hunters. But a trumpet replaces the oboe (the duck), a baritone sax and a bass replace the bassoon (Grandfather), trombones replace the horns (the wolf), and a piano replaces the string quartet (Peter). What really pricks up the ears, however, is Tam Dean Burn’s exuberant Scottish-accented narration. “I wasnae supposed to open the gate, wasnae supposed to go oot beyont the gairden wall,” says Burns, “but full o’ devilment, full o’ curiosity, that was me!” And it’s off to the races from there. —A.O.