Nas, Norah Jones & More: My Albums of the Week #30

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.

 

Nas
Illmatic
(Columbia, 1994)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – The Genesis // 2 – N.Y. State of Mind // 3 – Life’s a Bitch // 4 – The World Is Yours // 5 – Halftime // 6 – Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park) // 7 – One Love // 8 – One Time 4 Your Mind // 9 – Represent // 10 – It Ain’t Hard to Tell

Believe the hype! This is quintessential East Coast Hip-Hop. The production is among the best the genre ever offered, radiating sunshine and concrete. Lyrically, Nas is a straight-up poet. Lines like “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the causing of death” are timeless and profound.

 

Iggy Pop
Préliminaires
(Astralwerks/Virgin, 2009)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Les feuilles mortes // 2 – I Want to Go to the Beach // 3 – King of the Dogs // 4 – Je sais que tu sais // 5 – Spanish Coast // 6 – Nice to Be Dead // 7 – How Insensitive // 8 – Party Time // 9 – He’s Dead/She’s Alive // 10 – A Machine for Loving // 11 – She’s a Business // 12 – Les feuilles mortes (Marc’s Theme)

Iggy Pop, halfway between his godfather of punk person and some type of American Serge Gainsbourg. Préliminaires showcases him at his most eccentric. This is a wide-ranging collection of songs. Not the most cohesive of records but still an oddly fascinating entry.

 

Ron Carter and Danny Simmons
The Brown Beatnik Tomes: Live at BRIC House
(Blue Note, 2019)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – For a Pistol // 2 – The Final Stand of Two Dick Willie // 3 – Feeling It Coming On // 4 – Tender // 5 – Here’s To Oscar // 6 – Where Do I Begin // 7 – There Will Never Be Another You // 8 – The Jigaboo Waltz // 9 – The Brown Beatnik Tomes

One of the best-spoken word and jazz albums of recent memory. A strong collaboration between Ron Carter and poet Danny Simmons. Included are also tributes to Amiri Baraka and an instrumental nod to Oscar Peterson.

 

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
Such Sweet Thunder
(Columbia/Legacy, 1957)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Such Sweet Thunder // 2 – Sonnet for Caesar // 3 – Sonnet to Hank Cinq // 4 – Lady Mac // 5 – Sonnet in Search of a Moor // 6 – The Telecasters // 7 – Up and Down, Up and Down (I Will Lead Them Up and Down) // 8 – Sonnet for Sister Kate // 9 – The Star-Crossed Lovers // 10 – Madness in Great Ones // 11 – Half the Fun // 12 – Circle of Fourths

One of the greatest jazz artists meets one of the greatest playwrights of all time. Such Sweet Thunder is a 12-piece suite with movements inspired by different Shakespearean works. Positively elegant and swinging, another excellent collaboration by the prolific Ellington/Billy Strayhorn partnership, whose eclectic interests inspired some of the most amazing music of the 20th century.

 

Norah Jones
Come Away With Me
(Blue Note, 2002)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Don’t Know Why // 2 – Seven Years // 3 – Cold Cold Heart // 4 – Feelin’ the Same Way // 5 – Come Away With Me // 6 – Shoot the Moon // 7 – Turn Me On // 8 – Lonestar // 9 – I’ve Got to See You Again // 10 – Painter Song // 11 – One Flight Down // 12 – Nightingale // 13 – The Long Day Is Over // 14 – The Nearness of You

Charming and beautiful. If it wasn’t for a couple of weak tracks, I’d have no problem giving this top marks. Everything seems to work but most importantly, this is a great showcase for Norah Jones, who really is a wonderful vocal interpreter. It’s hard to imagine anybody else making “Don’t Know Why” work so well. Aside from that, she is well able to write great songs of her own and backed by a stellar ensemble, nothing can stop her.

 

Jazzmeia Horn
A Social Call
(Prestige, 2017)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Tight // 2 – East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) // 3 – Up Above My Head // 4 – Social Call // 5 – People Make the World Go Round // 6 – Lift Every Voice and Sing / Moanin’ // 7 – The Peacocks (A Timeless Place) // 8 – I Remember You // 9 – Afro Blue / Eye See You / Wade in the Water // 10 – I’m Going Down

Instantly established Jazzmeia Horn as one of the most important jazz vocalists of her generation. First and foremost, A Social Call showcases her skills across various styles and genres, offering some type of journey through the history of 20th-century black music – especially jazz. I must say, to me the upbeat vocalese numbers are those that took my breath away, like “Tight” and “Social Call.” But I understand the power and potential of even the more ambitious tracks, including the Track 9 suite and her spoken word performances.

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