"Guitar Legends," a concert preceding Seville’s Expo ‘92 that features a tribute to Miles Davis, leading off with George Benson on "All Blues," John McLaughlin on "In a Silent Way," Larry Coryell on "So What" and Paco de Lucia on "Concierto de Aranjuez." Those are the first four acts. They circle back later, as does Stanley Clarke. But a showcase for tasteful shredding and funky licks. McLaughlin in the lead by several lengths.
Maria Callas, “Casta Diva,” from Norma (Tullio Serafin, cond.)
I came across this recipe for pasta a la Norma, which, reportedly, was named for Bellini’s opera. So, I made it this evening, and, I tell you what, it’s darn tasty. Had a rather large helping of it that will be sticking to my ribs for the balance of the evening, I daresay.
And I listened to the 1960 Angel recording of Callas in the namesake opera with Tullio Serafin at the baton while nom-noming my pasta, so, good times.
Ann and Nancy Wilson, “Stairway to Heaven,” from 35th Kennedy Center Honors (2012)
I’d heard about this tribute version, and, normally, adding a choir or strings doesn’t make rock songs better for me. But the occasion, the reactions, the arrangement itself, and, of course, Ann Wilson’s voice kick this up a bunch of notches.
Here’s the whole tribute. It’s occasionally a bit jarring to hear the abridged versions, but greatest rock band ever, you take what you can get.
I went to see Stevie Wonder at the Garden sometime around Hotter Than July, and, although I’d always been a casual fan, I didn’t realize until that show just how many of his songs I knew and well.
Neil Diamond is the same way for me. Despite never having owned one of his albums, I know a long concert’s worth of his songs. Because, at his peak, he was such a strong singles artist, aside from someone who shaped his albums as more than vehicles for radio fodder.
From his early success at Bang Records (“Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Kentucky Woman” and the above) to his time at Columbia (“Holly Holy,” “I Am…I Said,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue”)—the preceding are representative but hardly comprehensive listings—he followed chart hit with hit, even as deeper album cuts became concert standards.
Hearing him today, beyond his abilities as a four-quadrant hitmaker, he also comes across as a thinking woman’s singer-songwriter, his consciously literary manner, particularly after signing with Columbia in ‘68, coupled with his hais Judeo-Elvis vibe to lend him the slightly furrowed brow and undone shirt of a proto-Sting. Though the Policeman might envy Diamond’s chart prowess.
Ibeyi, made up of Cuban-born, Paris-based twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, is an electronic doom soul duo who are forging a new spiritual sound with their debut EP Oya. The 19-year-old musicians are XL Recordings‘ newest signees, and their introductory singles “Oya” and “River” possess a hypnotic blend of hip-hop, electronica, and blues infused with Yoruba prayers and folk songs that will transport you to a higher realm upon first listen.
Singing in French, English, Spanish and Yoruba, Ibeyi count among their primary influences Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello, James Blake and their late father, the celebrated Cuban jazz percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz. Ibeyi’s vocal range, which wavers from the raspy and wraith-like to the sonorous and divine, is ideal for their sonic palette which revels in the phantasmagorical groove of liturgical Yoruba songs. Besides singing in Yoruba–which was brought to Cuba by West African slaves–Ibeyi honor their father’s legacy and Afro-Cuban heritage through their percussive production and use of live instruments. Beatsmith Naomi plays both the cajón and the batá while Lisa-Kaindé remains more in tune with the musical mythos of Ibeyi’s sound by weaving Yoruba lore deeply into their lyrics. “River” is dedicated to the goddess Oshun (the mother of the Ibeyi, and their first single and EP are both named for Oya (the benevolent orisha who took the Ibeyi in after Oshun was accused of witchcraft for birthing twins and kicked them out).