Pandemic Diary 3: With a Song in Our Heart

Perhaps in a world in which we need our neighbors more than usual, in which a global drama plays out in our local grocery stores and on the streets where we live, the music and creative expression we turn to for rest, relief, entertainment, and even solace—that deepest of words—ought to be local as well.

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When all this is over, some of the things we used to take for granted will appear to us a novelties or great new ideas. My gosh, even the thought of something ever ending feels something like a novelty at this moment.
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Climbing the Charts: Tania Stavreva

Perhaps my accidental double-purchase helped, but probably not. More about that encounter between an artist and listener in a moment …

A new entry appeared on Billboard magazine’s charts this week: pianist Tania Stavreva’s self-produced, independent, debut CD, Rhythmic Movement, which introduced itself at number 8 two days ago. It remains in the top 25 today.

Among her album’s competitors are new CDs from Andrea Bocelli, Björk, Murray Perahia, Renee Fleming, the Vienna Philharmonic, Elvis Presley (!), and Heart (!). The reviews of Ms. Stavreva’s album are in, they are stellar (and this website has been quoted); the record-buying public has followed, and listeners are discovering an important new talent.
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Tania Stavreva: Rhythm and Movement

The pianist Tania Stavreva’s official debut album, Rhythmic Movement, was released on January 7. If you own a music store, you will enjoy the debate you will have with yourself regarding which section to locate the CD: Classical? Jazz?

The album is available here: $10 for a digital download, $15 for a signed CD.
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In a Christmas Mood …

If you find yourself in London this Christmas Eve—and why would you not be there that night?—you ought to spend the evening in the company of Nick Shankland and Kitty LaRoar in the cabaret at Scarfes Bar (from 8:00 p.m. till midnight). Whoever or whatever the jazz muse is, he/she/it has decided to hang out with these two musicians and their friends the last few years.

And they released a Christmas E.P. this year, Christmas Dream, a collection of holiday standards that they treat like the ideas are new to them and the sentiments freshly felt. They make music that is beautiful, elegant, and always in the mood for love.

I have been a fan of Kitty LaRoar and Nick Shankland’s music for a couple years now, and each recording brings new pleasure with repeated listens. Her voice and his piano accompanied me through this challenging 2016 and helped make it less so. Last year they released an E.P. for Valentine’s Day (titled Valentine’s Eve, with saxophonist Ed Jones) … if they dedicated themselves to recording music about every holiday on Earth, I would be happy to take that global tour with them.
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On His 90th Birthday, Chuck Berry Ends Silence

In 1979, Chuck Berry released Rock It, his only album with Atco Records. Aside from live albums, the occasional compilation, and the soundtrack to the film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rock It has held its position as the last, the most recent, Chuck Berry album ever since.

Until today. Chuck Berry celebrated his 90th birthday today with a surprise announcement: he will release a new album of original songs next year. It is to be titled Chuck.
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‘Space Is the Place’

“Why did you stop playing the sax?” I asked a friend one day. He had been a Bebop player of growing reputation back in the ’50s but ended that career to become a poet.

“It never stopped sounding like a saxophone, no matter what I did,” was his reply. As a writer, he could transform things into words and words into things and essences into essentials, and also none of the above.
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‘Know Me,’ Nomi

Klaus Nomi was born 71 years ago today. A performer whose career may have reached its peak as a back-up singer/dancer/weird presence for one single show behind David Bowie, Nomi managed to stand out in a time and place that made a virtual fetish of uniqueness: New Wave-era New York City.

Many actors and performers attempt to find their voice or vision in a performance that resides in the very process of erasing the self, even the idea of a self. Some comedians who build a stage persona in this territory will even flirt with the idea of not being “in” on their own joke; they have brilliant moments but tend to have brief careers. Singers and pop stars find it easier to latch onto a persona for an album or concert tour or two, then drop that for an entirely new one a few years later.
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