Eleven New Albums I'm Recommending Right Now
These recordings are flying below-the-radar, but will reward your closest attention
If you look long enough, you can find almost anything you want on the music scene now.
You want a jazz trio that wears masks with horns? Yeah, we got that for you. You want opera legend Enrico Caruso to sound like a video game soundtrack? Sure thing, bro. You’re enthralled by daylight savings time and crave an entire album inspired by ticking clocks? No problemo.
Ah, but we keep tight management of inventory at The Honest Broker. So none of those items are in stock right now. Today I only have eleven albums on display—but each one is brand spanking new and worthy of your attention.
Once again, most of these are self-produced or from tiny indie labels. You could easily miss them without a personal recommendation. That’s what we’re here for.
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Jonathan Bockelmann: Childish Mind
Solo Acoustic Guitar Vignettes
The most ear-pleasing releases continue to arrive from unexpected places. Consider the case of Munich-based Jonathan Bockelmann. If you know him at all, it’s probably from his intensely electronic music as part of the techno trio Glaskin—it sounds like this. But who would guess that he’s one of the most creative acoustic guitarists in Europe? Bockelmann has been playing classical guitar for two decades, and now—finally—releases a debut solo album.
He plays fresh, unfettered music with total authority in a lick-free zone. Although his claimed influences include such disparate voices as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Leo Brouwer, and J.S. Bach, there’s nothing derivative in these guitar vignettes. Frankly, I’m surprised that Manfred Eicher didn’t sign this hometown lad to a contract. He deserves a larger platform than just an unheralded indie release. But consider yourself now in the know.
Erik Hall: Simeon ten Holt: Canto Ostinato
Dutch Minimalism Recorded at Home on Steinway Grand, Electric Piano & Organ
Pianist Erik Hall is not a household name—and it’s hard to become one if home base for your music career is Galien, Michigan. But Hall has gotten noticed—deservedly so—in some elite circles. I’m told that Brad Mehldau has performed his music in concert. And back in 2020, Hall released a solo version of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians that won the Libera Award for Best Classical Record.
Now he resurrects an ambitious minimalist work from 1976: Canto Ostinato by Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt. It is typically performed on two or four pianos (although other versions rely on harp or string quarter or whatever), but here Hall plays the work on overtracked grand pianos, electric piano, and organ. This hour-long performance—recorded at his home in Galien—makes for powerful immersive listening.
Rickie Lee Jones: Pieces of Treasure
The Jazz Side of Singer-Songwriter Rickie Lee Jones
I’ll put up with a lot from pop and rock stars. Go ahead, trash your hotel room and smash your fancy cars—I just smile in bemused tolerance. But when those aging superstars release a jazz album, that’s going too far. I’m not a snob—well, maybe I’m a wee bit of a snob—but I have legit concerns. After decades of belting out strident anthems in huge arenas, they struggle to adapt to the more nuanced demands of the jazz repertoire. They’re too overpowering for their own good, like sumo wrestlers trying to conduct a Japanese tea ceremony.
But that’s not the case with Rickie Lee Jones, who somehow achieved pop stardom with an elusive, jazzy way of delivering lyrics. She was born to sing jazz, and has proved it on sporadic occasions over the years. But now she releases an entire album of jazz standards, and surpasses my already high expectations. It’s no small thing to make these old songs sound morning-dew fresh, and we don’t have Blossom Dearie, Nancy Wilson, Jo Stafford, Shirley Horn, Blossom Dearie, June Christy, or those other masters of understatement around anymore to show us how. But RLJ somehow pulls it off in the year 2023, and makes a case that she belongs in that elite company.
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