Let’s get an earful of what musicians in the area are creating.
Bed of Roses is the upbeat and solid rock-blues-infused mixture concocted by the Lawrence-based group the Beagles. Profiled in the September 12 issue of U.S. 1, the group features Rob Freeman, lead and backing vocals, guitars; Vanessa Rose, lead and backing vocals; Steve Wolpert, sax, vocals; Chris Clark, basses; and David Ross, drums.
An Aquarian Weekly music critic does a fine job putting the CD of original songs in context. “If you’re looking for alternative-based music, this probably won’t be your cup of tea. This is a band that takes you back to the earlier sounds of rock ‘n’ roll and leaves out the noise and dissonance as they do it. It is more about talent mixed with compositional style than it is about making some sort of a statement in a world gone completely berserk. It’s refreshing to hear a positive song that centers more on being cheery instead of morose and dark.”
“Bed of Roses,” available on Amazon and CD Baby, $12.97 CD or $9.99 download.
The Princeton band Dharmasoul recently released Lightning Kid. Featuring 10 works by Jonah Tolchin and Kevin Clifford, the album “encompasses equal parts rock, blues, and R&B in a stunning eclectic record,” says Scott Bampton in a review on the website Rock and Blues Muse.
Bampton says the album’s “beefy sound” comes from both the talents of the two core members and four studio musicians that “bring their own flair to each track on the record; keys player Brendan Moore takes the melodic lead on the Black Keys-inspired ‘Love Again.’ With its retro ’70s rock feel, the track’s sweeping keys perfectly complement Tolchin’s rhythmic guitar playing.”
Dharmasoul was also profiled in U.S. 1 (August 8), but Bampton’s capsulization tells the tale: “Having met as teenagers before going down separate musical paths, Tolchin and Clifford’s coming together on Lightning Kid has the effect of reaching through the speakers and pulling you right into their story. Perhaps it’s down to their close personal friendship, but Dharmasoul is a talented duo that shares an unusually deep musical connection and a bright future. As a debut offering, ‘Lightning Kid’ is a wonderful, original and skilful effort from the relative newcomers.”
“Lightning Kid,” $15, www.dharmasoulband.com.
Area pianist and music instructor Steve Kramer has released a new CD, As Time Goes By.
I’m biased. Kramer is a serious talent who has a grasp of traditions and love of standards. He is also a friend and colleague who served as the musical director for several musicals I produced some 20 years ago.
A product of the Trenton school system — where his instructors included the influential area music teacher and jazz musician Tommy Grice — and Berklee College in Boston, Kramer sharpened his artistry by performing on the road with the Artie Shaw Orchestra, touring with the then-new musical “The All Night Strut,” subbing for Broadway musicals, and conducting and playing keyboards for the Ice Capades.
His sense of playing for both audiences and other musicians is all here and this CD simply sings in this valentine to the music of yesterday. Put it on and listen to the music of songwriting masters George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein, Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, and even Lennon and McCartney — all original arrangements performed with strength, clarity, exuberance , and unabashed flourish
“For Sentimental Reasons” may be just one of the 23 songs, but it also reflects the soul of the work. And as time goes by, it’s great to know that the artistry of these songs still can heard in the region and on the CD. skramer.com.
Two 2018 Westminster Choir College CDs show the importance of the region’s major music school. One is composer Frank Martin’s circa 1925 Mass For Double Choir. Conductor Joe Miller calls it “a masterwork in the 20th century’s unaccompanied repertoire. When I first heard the mass, I was struck by its power to reach deep into my soul. It somehow felt that it was music I had known all of my life. John Muir, one of the earliest advocates for national parks, wrote, ‘Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.’ This mass is Martin’s backyard, his Yosemite in sound.”
Featuring five sections of the mass and four other works, including Westminster composer Joel Phillip’s William Blake inspired “Little Lamb,” the CD features violinist and Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim, soprano Sherezade Panthaki, and Philadelphia Orchestra bassist Joseph Conyers.
The other is the Naxos record label’s release of contemporary composer James Whitbourn’s Carolae: Music for Christmas. It is performed by the Westminster Williamson Voices, named for the founder of Westminster Choir College, John Finley Williamson, and the resident choir of the Choral Institute at Oxford (CIO). Conducting is Williamson Voices founder James Jordan. A review of the CD in the British newspaper the Guardian sums it up well: “the impressive Westminster Williamson Voices, recorded in the expansive acoustic of Princeton University chapel, fuse American and British traditions…[Whitbourn’s] ‘Veni et illumina’ is a knockout.” Elsewhere the paper praised Jordon conducting for its “precision and poise.”
Both CDs, available through Naxos records, represent the efforts of a regionally based international cultural treasure and are worthy additions to a serious collection.
“Mass For Double Choir,”$16.99, and “Carolae,” $12.99, naxosdirect.com