Musical Musings:

Ulrich Schnauss, A Strangely Isolated Place
I think Ulrich Schnauss is a musical genius.  A German now living in London, Schnauss creates music combining ambient, electronic and shoegazing styles. His music is complex and relies upon  multilayered synthesizers, driving beats, and at times, ethereal vocals.  You might hear the influence and traces of My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Velvet Underground, Pat Metheny, and even Pink Floyd. From this album, try In All The Wrong Places and A Letter From Home to test the waters.

Schnauss  said in a recent interview that his music expresses the desire to escape from the "madness of everyday life"  and then return refreshed. And don't we all need that self-therapy from time to time?
So yes, there is an escapist, even trancelike quality here. Ultimately it's euphoric, exuberant, soaring, and life affirming.

You might also like his first album Far Away Trains Passing By (released in the U.S. in 2006).

Karen Dalton, It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going to Love You Best (1969) and In My Own Time (1971).
“My favorite singer in the place was Karen Dalton. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday’s and played like Jimmy Reed.” - Bob Dylan. After forty years of obscurity, Karen Dalton is only now undergoing something of a rediscovery. Having jammed with Dylan, Fred Neil and Tim Hardin, she died in 1993 from a life of drugs and drink. These two albums reveal one of the most achingly beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. For starters you might try Sweet Substitute or It Hurts Me Too, from It’s So Hard... or perhaps Are You Heading to the Country from My Time. This is the genuine article, the blues personified.

Bill Evans Trio, Sunday at the Village Vanguard(Live)
This is a good place to start if you'd like to sample some jazz. Bassist Scott LaFaro, who died in a car accident ten days after this gig in 1961, is exquisite here. If I recall correctly, he was only 26 yrs. old. He has been cited by scores of jazz muscians as having a seminal influence on their playing. Evans on piano is a special treat at any time. There's even some crowd noise in the background here that adds to the authenticity. For 1961, the recording is remarkably good. I would rank this with Kind of Blue (see above) on any short list of "desert island" albums.

Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.61.
In my opinion this is most sublime of all concertos, quite possibly the best ever written. The third movement (Rondo) may be my single favorite segment of music. The version with Israeli born Itzhak Perlman is my favorite but Vikotria Mullova, the Russian virtuoso, is his equal. This shows what the creative spirit can accomplish in THIS world. For me, it epitomizes secular humanism at its finest.

Charlie Haden and Kenny Barron, Night and the City.
Here it's just bassist Haden and pianist Barron playing together at the Iridium in New York City. Barron is at the top of the heap among jazz pianists and here he's at his best. You won't hear better jazz piano and the legendary Charlie Haden is a perfect match. Listen late at night, 5 stars.

Etta James, Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.
Etta won a grammy for this one but it could have been for many others. Here one legend salutes another, older one. Sure, you should listen to Lady Day herself but here Etta is really something special. Many jazz/soul fans would list this as their favorite and it would make it into my knapsack on that island too. I've listened to it hundreds of times and never tired of it. Fundamental. Trying to get over a love affair? This is the CD.

Mozart, Violin Concertos Nos. 3 & 5; Adagio for Violin and Orchestra.
In honor of his 250th birthday! I'm no expert but I like Cho-Liang Lin's interpretation of Mozart.

ABBEY LINCOLN, A TURTLE'S DREAM One of the last of the great jazz vocalists, Lincoln is now in her mid 70s. This CD is at once passionate, wise, mesmerizing, and not a little melancholy. Per usual, she's accompanied by steller musicians including Pat Metheny(guitar) Charlie Haden(bass) Kenny Barron(piano) Victor Lewis (drums) and Roy Hargrove (trumpet). I've never tired of this magical creation, recorded in NYC (1994).

Diane Reeves. A LITTLE MOONLIGHT
A truly amazing, exquisite voice, arguably the pre-eminent jazz vocalist of our time. Fine. Here she does standards but makes them her own. You might recall her voice from the soundtrack to Good Night and Good Luck.