PLAN 9 - OUTSIDE THE HEARD - FEBRUARY 2015

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Kenny Wheeler
Songs For Quintet
ECM Records
 
Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) was an unassuming giant of modern jazz, a daring improviser, and a writer of many beautiful and slyly unorthodox tunes. His recorded legacy includes albums now regarded as contemporary jazz classics such as Gnu High, Deer Wan, and Music For Large And Small Ensembles. In December 2013 he recorded what was to be his last album – Songs for Quintet, an inspirational session featuring Wheeler compositions of recent vintage (plus a fresh approach to “Nonetheless”, first heard on Angel Song) – in London’s Abbey Road Studio with four of Kenny’s favorite players: Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli, Chris Laurence and Martin France. Songs for Quintet was released on January 14, 2015, which would have been Kenny Wheeler’s 85th birthday.
 
Chris Potter
Imaginary Cities
ECM Records

 
Imaginary Cities is the recording premiere of saxophonist Chris Potter’s new Underground Orchestra. At the core of this larger ensemble is the personnel of his long-established Underground quartet – with Adam Rogers, Craig Taborn and Nate Smith – now joined by two bassists, a string quartet, and Potter’s old comrade from Dave Holland Quintet days, vibes and marimba man Steve Nelson. The title composition is a suite, panoramic in its reach, with movements subtitled “Compassion”, “Dualities”, “Disintegration” and “Rebuilding”. The scope of the work, and its contrasting moods and thematic development, inspire some of Potter’s finest playing. Four further pieces – “Lament”, “Firefly”, “Sky” and “Shadow Self” – extend the feeling of the suite, successfully combining both tightly written material and very open areas involving all members of the orchestra.
Andy Shauf
The Bearer of Bad News
Tender Loving Empire

 
“It’s hard to explain if you’ve never lived here,” sings Andy Shauf on the epic elegy “Wendell Walker,” the centerpiece of his stunning album The Bearer of Bad News. Shauf makes it seem easy to coax forth beauty from the dimmest of corners, forming gorgeous songs by conjuring vivid particulars of place and character through dark lyrics, a gooseflesh-inducing tenor and wide-open instrumentation. You feel him summoning energy from the loamy soil of his Saskatchewan homeland in his warm guitar tone, wind-swept piano, and lilting clarinet. His lyrical references may be local, but his sound on Bearer evokes timeless rock n’ roll that’s reminiscent of Paul Simon, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith. The Bearer of Bad News sounds lovely, spacious, and grand, which makes it all the more surprising that he self-recorded the whole album on a shoestring budget in his Regina basement.
 
David Garrett
Garrett vs. Paganini
Decca Records

 
The 19th Century composer, Niccolò Paganini, was one of the first musicians who was renowned for their virtuosity and stage presence, and violinist David Garrett could be said to be his 21st century equivalent, not only re-imagining works by the man himself, but applying Paganini’s edge to the works of other composers and his own pieces. Garrett vs. Paganini is hardly adversarial but features some surprising musical clashes. Firstly there is the internationally renowned Andrea Bocelli, whose vocals on “Ma Dove Sei” rank alongside some of his greatest work. The second is more, uh… unexpected: Nicole Scherzinger (of The Pussycat Dolls) takes on “Io Ti Penso,” and gives a neo-classical delivery unlike anything her fans will have heard before. But don't’ worry: His take on “Caprice No. 24” will assuage any doubts about Garrett’s love and devotion to this great composer.
Milo Greene
Control
Atlantic
 
In the DIY music world, having proper representation is key. Lacking an actual manager, college classmates Andrew Heringer, Robbie Arnett, and Marlana Sheetz concocted a virtual one – Milo Greene – to promote their individual musical efforts. It wasn’t until 2009 that the three began creating music together. While house sitting in the isolated Northern California foothills, the trio wrote and recorded a handful of songs. Seeking a name for their new venture, they thought it only natural to pay tribute to the fake manager/booking agent. Eventually Heringer and Sheetz moved to Southern California, where Arnett was living. There, they added Graham Fink (formerly of The Outline) and Curtis Marrero (formerly of Arnett’s band Links). Now a five-piece that play of one (albeit divided) mind, Milo Greene have a seductive sound that brings to mind a West Coast version of The Civil Wars.
 
George Ezra
Wanted On Voyage
Columbia

 
It would be simple, but not really cynical, to guess that George Ezra is being foisted upon record buyers on this side of the pond thanks to the unrelenting ubiquity of Edward Sheeran – another British guy with an acoustic guitar who sells a lot of records. I mean, that’s how it works. But George Ezra has something that Sheeran doesn’t – gravitas. With a voice culled from thunder and sweetened when the moment’s right (like on his wonderful single, “Budapest”) Ezra, despite being a white bloke, has an almost Caribbean baritone that can be used to enchant or scare the bejeezus out of you… Or, as evidenced on another fantastic single, “Did You Hear The Rain” – both. His latest album, Wanted On Voyage, is a terrific introduction to this compelling young talent – a deceptively sweet confection with a compellingly dark center.
Natalie Prass
Natalie Prass
Columbia

 
Natalie Prass is a songwriter’s songwriter and performer’s performer — a singer who understands the vision and brings an undeniable talent to the process. She’s a joy for any listener to discover—a lover and a fighter and old-soul trader in genuine energy, aiming straight for the heart. Prass turns a sly eye to the pageantry of emotion, the drama of love and the mysteries of everyday life with a disarming mixture of sincerity and cosmic insolence, unapologetically romantic, spinning golden threads of lyric and melody, each inflection and melisma planned and considered, each word tailored for meaning and effect—the pop gesture as art form. She delivers it all with carefree charm and healthy dollop of groove and syrupy soul – imagine a cross between Jenny Lewis and Isaac Hayes. Her new album is called Natalie Prass because it’s so uniquely her.
 
Foy Vance
Live at Bangor Alley
Glassnote
 
Foy Vance was born in the North Ireland town of Bangor, but his passion for traditional music was born in the southern states of America. As a child, Foy relocated with his father, a preacher, to the American Midwest settling in Oklahoma. With his father, Foy travelled the American South, widening his horizons and absorbing the rich musical traditions he was exposed to. Returning to Ireland some years later, Foy began writing his own music, deeply shaped by the sounds of his youth. His last album, Joy of Nothing, found Vance taking his sound to new heights and great acclaim – so his it’s okay to think of his new live album as a victory lap. Recorded over two nights in Vance’s hometown at a place that holds deep spiritual and musical significance Live At Bangor Abbey is a quintessential triumph.
 
Mikky Ekko
Time
RCA
 
Time is a diverse collection of top-shelf R&B-influenced alternative-pop, with Mikky Ekko’s emotionally resonant voice taking center stage. The music retains the independent spirit that drives his early songs “Pull Me Down,” “Kids,” and “Disappear,” without extinguishing Ekko’s desire to write songs that are truly accessible – something he’s proven thanks to critical acclaim from the likes of Spin and Pitchfork, not to mention his contributions to The Hunger Games soundtrack, his collaboration with Mega DJ David Guetta, and (of course) “Stay” – the multi-platinum single recorded by Rihanna. “I don’t really consider myself of the pop world,” he says. “I’ve worked really hard to make sure the music doesn't sound like anyone else’s. But having a pop sensibility, for lack of a better word, allows me to create something that’s relatable to people, yet still maintain what’s precious to me.” That said, Time couldn’t have come along at a better moment.
 
Kid Ink
Full Speed
RCA

 
Kid Ink is into literal shit. Take is name, for example: He’s called Kid Ink because he’s got all those tattoos. “I named my last album My Own Lane because that's exactly how I felt at the time,” says Kid Ink. “After having an amazing year, I feel like I am just now hitting my stride and I’m going Full Speed in my own lane on this album.” The album’s first single, “Body Language” featuring Usher and Tinashe, should’ve been called “Hit Single” since it’s been streamed over 12 million times worldwide and was declared as “another infectious rap track with a club-ready beat and an R&B assist” by MTV, who apparently still know something about music after all. Perhaps he should've called this Platinum?
Justin Townes Earle
Absent Fathers
Vagrant

 
Fresh off the success of his recently released album, Single Mothers, Justin Townes Earle is back with Absent Fathers Also comprised of 10 tracks, Absent Fathers was recorded alongside Single Mothers as a double album, but as Justin began to sequence it, he felt each half needed to make its own statement and they took on their own identities. The albums were recorded live with Earle’s four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment. In fact, his songs “Picture in a Drawer’ and ‘It’s Cold in This House’ are only Justin, his guitar and his pedal steel player Paul Niehaus. Powerful, honesty, unflinching – Absent Fathers proves yet again that the Future of Nashville is in good hands.
 
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The Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) is a group of some of the best independent music stores in America. CIMS was founded in 1995; its current membership is made up of 29 accounts that handle 47 stores in 21 states. Many of the accounts have been recognized by the music industry and their local communities for their outstanding dedication to customer service and developing artist support.

Each member is bound by its shared love of music, a reputation for great selection and customer service in its community, yet each CIMS account is as unique as the market it represents. Most importantly, CIMS member stores continually seek to challenge the jaded, color-by-numbers advertising and marketing of other retailers.

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