New to Me: Geri Allen, Hancock/Shorter, Nonequal Bach

Last year I inaugurated a feature where I talk about music which, while not necessarily hot off the presses, is still New to Me–since it’s been a while since the last installment, here are a few albums which have recently been turning my crank:

Geri Allen — The Nurturer (1990) & Maroons (1992): I once got to go hear Geri Allen at the Village Vanguard after a friend who worked at an artist’s credit union discovered money for her which she’d forgotten about, and going to her show seemed like the best way to get in touch. She was off my radar for a while before a friend loaned me an album last year, which led to me digging up more. These two are  both fine early 90s efforts, with really interesting tunes and her own deeply personal blowing–and of special interest to trumpeters, great contributions from sidefolks like Wallace Roney and underappreciated legend Marcus Belgrave. (“Number Four,” an Allen/Belgrave duet on Maroons, is worth the price of admission itself.)

Derek Adlam — Masterpieces for Clavichord by Bach (2005); Christophe Rousset — Bach: Italian Concerto; Partita in B minor etc. (1992): Since stumbling on to Johnny Reinhard’s “Microtonal Bach” show during WKCR’s annual Bach Festival while I was in college, I’ve been hooked on recordings of my favorite composer made on instruments in historical, non-equal-tempered tunings–even though I love Bach on piano, once you’ve heard how colorful and interesting baroque modulations can be in nonequal tuning, hearing the same pieces on an equal-tempered instrument can be like going from technicolor to black & white. Rousset’s rousing album features a strident harpsichord in the Werckmeister III tuning, and outstanding versions of several Bach staples, including one of my all-time favorites, the Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor (check it out here). Adlam’s disc features the much more subtle clavichord (made for quiet performances in small rooms) in a tuning called “Young 2,” and a program of lesser-known (to me) pieces. (Couldn’t find a video but here’s Adlam playing some William Byrd in nonequal tuning.) If you want to get a great intro to historical tuning and the kind of color effects I’m talking about, check out this page featuring the same baroque piece played in Meantone, Werckmeister and equal (modern) tunings.

Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter — 1+1 (1997): It’s embarrassing, but I never got around to checking out this album until recently, when a friend put on the sublime “Meridianne/A Wood Sylph” at a listening party. (We had a great time imagining the Verve execs’ reaction in the studio–“Uh, are you sure you guys don’t feel like throwing in a version of ‘All Blues’ or something?”) With these giants, you know it would’ve been incredible even if they’d phoned it in, which they unquestionably did not. An outstanding reminder of the towering peaks still remaining to be ascended in this music. On the off chance that I’m not the last person in the world to recommend this record, I strongly suggest you pick it up.

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