Several recently arrived CDs demonstrate that the area is making joyful noises ranging from funk to full orchestra. So if you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift and wanting to support regional talent, then listen up:
“Interstellar Fortuneteller” is Charles Laurita & the Mischief’s follow up to its first CD — the one simply bearing the group’s name. It’s a suite of songs delivering on the band’s self-described “atlernafunk” style: tight horn section, heavy dance grooves, solid bass line, and memorable melodic styles. With its own loud and clear sound, the band connects to the history of rock and horn sound evoking Cool and the Gang, Parliament, late Bowie, Motown, and others.
In addition to the ear, the CD also stimulates the imagination by evoking sci-fi films (“Alien”) and video games. But that doesn’t really matter: The music written by Hamilton-based guitarist Laurita — and performed with bassist Kenny Hamilton, percussionist Will Sarver, saxophonists Chandler Scales and Tommy Allen, and trumpeter Sean Joyce — makes you want to smile and move.
“Love Matters Now” is the first release for the Ewing-based pianist, vocalist, and trumpeter Alex Otey. Cabaret performer Bob Egan calls him a mixture of “Harry Connick Jr., Dr. John, and Randy Newman.”
And while the CD credits the Alex Otey Trio as the headliners — Otey along with bassist (and the College of NJ faculty member) Chris Clark and Holland, Pennsylvania, based percussionist/guitarist Kevin Kuchinksy — it boasts a guest star list that reads like a “best of” from the region.
That includes the internationally known Ewing-born be-bop saxophonist Richie Cole playing “Richie’s Bop,” Ewing Grammy-nominated vocalist Amy Otey (AKA Miss Amy), Ewing saxophonist Dom DeFranco, Hopewell guitarist James Popik, Trenton drummer Darrell Soltesz, and Nashville based-drummer and former Mercer County Community College music faculty member Ryan Ross.
Written, arranged, and produced by Otey (who also hosts the Trenton Jazz Show on Mercer County Community College’s jazz station), this collection of blue, bebop, and boogie selections is a real-deal sampling of jazz in the region.
“Space Radio” is Princeton the work of violist and composer Adam Sterr, better known to the region as the busker performing in front of the Garden Theater on Nassau Street. Sterr recently demonstrated his composing chops by rescoring the musical soundtrack of the 1960s supernatural film “Carnival of Souls” and stepping into the Garden to perform it during the film’s Halloween screening.
With the titles “Memory Echo,” “Rainstorms in Attics,” “Floating/Falling,” and others played only on the viola (with no synthesizers), the CD seems a collection of aural poetry — informed by classical, minimalism, ambient music, and B-movie music.
“Lumina” is the first recording by the Princeton-based Westminster Choir College’s Kantorei, an ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of early music. The CD’s name is Latin and suggests illumination and revelation. The group name refers to cantor-led court music.
The conductor and chair of Westminster’s sacred music department, Amanda Quist, leads the listener through nearly an hour of transcendent spiritual music spanning the 12th to the 19th century. Simply put, it is a recording by one of the world’s leading choir schools. That it was recorded in one of the region’s most celebrated religious structures, Princeton University Chapel, adds to its artistic and regional significance.
And since it’s the season of music and causes, Plainsboro-based singer Grace Fields sent in her CD “Christmas with Grace,” created to support the Samaritan’s Purse’s “Operation Christ Child,” which she says has “a really cool program that supports underprivileged youth in third world countries. They provide ‘shoeboxes’ for kids for Christmas. Each child receives a box with essential items (like socks, a toothbrush, etc.) and also a fun Christmas gift too.” Fields, originally from Austin, Texas, studied at Rice University and Texas University, and lists performances at the at the North Shore Music Theater in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Theater, and the off-Broadway June Havoc Theater. You can hear her at gracefield.net.
With music being part of our area, supporting musicians is always a sound proposition — all year.