Kurt Elling, Carla Bley, John Carroll Kirby: My Albums of the Week #14

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Kurt Elling
Secrets Are the Best Stories
(Edition, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – The Fanfold Hawk (For Franz Wright) / 2 – A Certain Continuum / 3 – Stays / 4 – Gratitude (For Robert Bly) / 5 – Stage I / 6 – Beloved (For Toni Morrison) / 7 – Stages II, III / 8 – Song of the Rio Grande (For Oscar and Valeria Martinez-Ramirez) / 9 – Rabo de Nube / 10 – Esperanto / 11 – Epilogo

One of Kurt Elling’s most ambitious and rewarding releases of recent memory. A blend of poetry and music that gets better with every listen, and shows that he’s more than a rich baritone but also a stellar lyricist. It helps to have Danilo Pérez, whose music, whether his own or arrangements of others, enriches the weight of both the words of universal relevance and Elling’s interior monologues.


John Carroll Kirby
My Garden
(Stones Throw, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Blueberry Beads / 2 – By the Sea / 3 – Night Croc / 4 – Arroyo Seco / 5 – Son of Pucabufeo / 6 – San Nicolas Island / 7 – Humid Mood / 8 – Lay You Down / 9 – Wind

John Carroll Kirby’s debut for Stones Throw is pure aesthetic goodness, putting an authorial spin on 21st-century muzak, from lofi to vaporwave, that have become increasingly popular in the age of streaming. My Garden also feels like quite a representative album-antidote to the tumult of 2020.


Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
Life Goes On
(ECM, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Life Goes On: Life Goes On / 2 – Life Goes On: On / 3 – Life Goes On: And On / 4 – Life Goes On: And Then One Day / 5 – Beautiful Telephones – Pt. 1 / 6 – Beautiful Telephones – Pt. 2 / 7 – Beautiful Telephones – Pt. 3 / 8 – Copycat: After You / 9 – Copycat: Follow the Leader / 10 – Copycat: Copycat

Is there any other trio that sounds like this one? Deadpan, amazing chemistry and musicianship, and the lack of drums accentuating the conversational nature of their music. Each of their releases has been getting better with the passing of time. This one is no different, with Bley’s compositional prowess on showcase whether via a four-part reflection on mortality of a three-part suite taking digs at Trump. Also, at 82, her piano playing has arguably never sounded better – further proof that, while she has done it all in her stellar career, the trio is the perfect vehicle at this time.

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