The Editors' Listening Station: CD Music Reviews

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What Keyboard's editors are listening to this week.

Week of October 6, 2016

 •Drive-By Truckers American Band

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Week of September 12, 2016

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Starr Parodi
The Heart of Frida

A fair share of recorded music can melt your heart. That’s what happens to me while listening to the latest album from pianist/composer Starr Parodi. The Heart of Frida is Starr’s vividly moving tribute to transcendental Mexican artist and painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954).

Parodi’s passionate, beautiful, ethereal rendition of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” seems the polar opposite of his raucous original. She recorded it a few months before Prince’s death, making the song even more poignant. This and “Nights in White Satin,” which you’d swear begins with electric piano (but that isn’t so; more below), are the only tracks Starr didn’t compose herself, and the latter song explores sonic landscapes never touched by the Moody Blues.

The pensive and introspective “The Elephant and the Dove,” nicknames for Frida and her artist-husband Diego Rivera, is Starr’s musical exploration of their loving connections and vibrant differences.

Painting with sonic colors is another Parodi skill. Witness “Overture of Color,” inspired by Frida’s statement “I paint flowers so they will not die.” Starr composed the piece for orchestra, but this rendition is remarkably expressive and complete.

The subtle twists and turns in Starr’s piano lines—as well as some added mystical signal processing—send thrills through my spine. The Heart of Frida isn’t purely an acoustic piano album. In a few select spots, you’ll hear what seem like synthesized and distinctly non-piano audio. What’s actually happening is a bit of subtle delay and filter processing of the piano sound, courtesy of husband Jeff Fair’s studio artistry. And what a piano! Centrally located in their home studio is the 1928 Steinway grand that once lived on MGM’s scoring stage and contributed to The Wizard of Oz soundtrack.

Surely no one, however, could coax more passionate feelings and rainbow colors out of the instrument than Starr. Like her 2008 solo-piano album Common Places, The Heart of Frida belongs in the library of anyone who loves brilliantly and emotionally crafted music. – Mark Vail

Week of July 25, 2016

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Jeremy Manasia Trio - Metamorphosis (Rondette)
Pianist Manasia's quartet is solid and swinging, with tunes that showcase guitarist Peter Bernstein's inventive playing. Enjoyable over many listens! 

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Carlos Franzetti - Argentum (Sunnyside)
A playful set of works by Argentinian composer/pianist Franzetti that successfully merges a number of musical styles over the course of the CD, yet does so with class and elegance.

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Warren Wolf- Convergence (Macavenue)
Smokin' and virtuosic lines and tasty solos across the board by Wolf (mallets) and Brad Mehldau (piano). The session also includes John Scofield (guitar), Christian McBride (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums). An outstanding lineup with top-notch playing throughout and highly recommended.