Bay Area CDs

Welcome to SF Classical Voice’s year-end roundup of recordings released in 2022 by Bay Area artists! Our list isn’t limited to classical music: We’ve embraced everything from jazz to new music to traditional recitals and much more. We can’t claim that our roster is comprehensive, but we have tried to provide a solid sample of the area’s musical wealth. There are so many great performances that we aren’t able to hear or review over the course of the year, and this is one way for us to catch up.

We offer this listing with minimal editorializing and reviewing. Blurbs are drawn primarily from the artists and their labels’ promotional materials. Album titles and cover images are linked to websites with more information and purchasing options. We hope you find something new and interesting as you peruse the listing below:


CD coverMark Abel

Spectrum

Mark Abel’s Spectrum is a rich and varied sample of his still-expanding compositional style — two song cycles, a slice of an opera-in-development, and three chamber works. The musicians on this double album include renowned sopranos Isabel Bayrakdarian and Hila Plitmann, mezzo Kindra Scharich, Alexander String Quartet violist David Samuel, cellist Jonah Kim, Pacific Symphony concertmaster Dennis Kim, Oregon Symphony principal horn Jeff Garza, and pianists Carol Rosenberger, Dominic Cheli, Jeffrey LaDeur, and Sean Kennard. The pieces eloquently display Abel’s stylistic trademarks: intense lyricism, adventurous instrumental writing, strong original texts, and emotive singing. (Delos)


CD coverElinor Armer

To the Western Sea: Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin

Composer Elinor Armer’s new album was released on Oct. 7 and is intended as a memorial to author Ursula K. Le Guin, with whom Armer had a long friendship and sometime collaboration. The recording contains three song cycles — the composer’s setting of poems by the author — and also an aria from the opera Lavinia, which the pair had just begun when Le Guin died. The singers are Wendy Hillhouse, Mariya Kaganskaya, and Kindra Scharich, with Esther Landau on flute, Rira Watanabe on violin, Erica Johnson on percussion, and Keisuke Nakagoshi, Lois Brandwynne, and the composer herself on piano. Produced and engineered by David v.R. Bowles. (Centaur Records)


CD coverBrian Baumbusch

Effigy

It’s all too rare that composers of forward-thinking music are granted access to large ensembles, much less those working in the lineage of the American maverick. Rarer still is for one to handle these performing forces with the grace and delicacy that Brian Baumbusch exhibits throughout Effigy, his latest CD on Other Minds Records. Effigy features performances of two previously unrecorded works by the CSU Fullerton Wind Symphony and Other Minds Ensemble, both conducted by Dustin Barr. (Other Minds Records)


CD coverDee Bell

Love for Sailin’ Over Seas: Then & Now

For those unaware, Dee Bell’s new album was actually intended as a two-song digital release of Abbey Lincoln’s “I Got Thunder (And It Rings)” and Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “I’ll String Along With You.” Instead, favorites from the last three Bell CDs were remastered and added to make a full CD to compliment this release. A dusky vocalist whose warm sound evokes the breezy sophistication of 1950s West Coast jazz, Bell is a regular presence in the Bay Area. (Laser Records)


CD coverSarah Cahill

The Future Is Female, Vols. 1–2

This three-volume series (the third is scheduled for March 2023) celebrates and highlights women composers from the 17th century to the present through a project Sarah Cahill has been performing around the Bay Area as well as internationally. Volume 1 begins with Italian Baroque composer Anna Bon and ends with celebrated Oakland composer/pianist Mary D. Watkins. Particularly notable is the first recording of Agi Jambor’s 1949 Sonata dedicated to the victims of Auschwitz. Volume 2 starts in the French Baroque with Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and ends with local composer/cellist Theresa Wong and includes recent works by Gabriela Ortiz and Meredith Monk. (First Hand Records)


CD coverCantata Collective

Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 1

The present release is the first volume in Cantata Collective’s exploration of the cantatas of J.S. Bach. Cantata Collective is San Francisco’s only professional ensemble dedicated solely to the performance of these works. Together with its “congregation,” the group has created a magical community of listeners who share in this traversal of musical treasures. Cantata Collective presents these iconic works as the equivalent of a World Heritage Site, a collection of masterworks belonging to all people. Soprano Sherezade Panthaki and countertenor Reginald Mobley are the soloists. Produced and engineered by David v.R. Bowles. (Centaur Records)


CD coverEric Choate/Joseph Stillwell/David Conte

Nature, Love, and Death: Three Song Cycles for Tenor and Chamber Orchestra

Nature, Love, and Death features song cycles by composers Eric Choate, Joseph Stillwell, and David Conte, performed by tenor Brian Thorsett and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas. All three composers serve on the faculty of SFCM. Choate’s cycle and Fall explores the poignancy of the season as expressed by a variety of poets. Stillwell’s Songs of Love and Solace traces a young man’s journey of love and heartbreak through settings of poems by William Butler Yeats. And Conte’s American Death Ballads comprises settings of four anonymous texts from the 16th through 18th centuries about murder, death, and dying. (Arsis Audio)


CD coverGeorge Cotsirilos Quartet

Refuge

A central figure in San Francisco’s jazz scene for decades, Chicago-bred guitarist George Cotsirilos follows up his lauded 2018 quartet release, Mostly in Blue, with a solidly swinging collection of new originals. With their many years spent performing together and backing the likes of Cal Tjader, Tommy Flanagan, Art Pepper, and Carmen McRae, Cotsirilos, pianist Keith Saunders, bassist Robb Fisher, and drummer Ron Marabuto share an effortless, sophisticated rapport. “This is unapologetically straight-ahead jazz that nevertheless feels fresh and new,” writes CD HotList. (OA2 Records)


CD coverNatalie Cressman/Ian Faquini

Auburn Whisper

Auburn Whisper — the latest album from trombonist, singer, and songwriter Natalie Cressman and guitarist, composer, and vocalist Ian Faquini — not only serves as a testament to the couple’s symbiotic musical partnership but also to their resilience during unprecedented times. Written and recorded in 2020, Auburn Whisper finds the two artists blending traditional Brazilian rhythms with modern, expansive arrangements — reflecting on people and places they miss while discovering joy within the present moment. “With the year that 2020 could have been, there was certainly a feeling of loss. But it ultimately gave us time to be creative,” shares Cressman. “Together, we were able to get back to the heart of why we really love music.” (GroundUP Music)


CD coverMarina Crouse

Canto de mi corazón

Accepting one’s identity and ethnicity, and, in turn, those of others, is becoming more embedded in the cultural fabric of our current times. Vocalist Marina Crouse is a fourth generation Chicana whose parents and grandparents were all born in the United States, yet she has spent her entire life contending with her Mexican American heritage. On her first all-Spanish recording, Canto de mi corazón, the powerhouse singer pays tribute to one of her childhood musical influences, Eydie Gormé. (Little Village Foundation)


CD coverAndrew Dixon

Mind Noise

From growing up in Chicago to his travels around the world, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dixon has created a sound that is fresh, unique, and sets him apart from the typical jazz fare. His new album, Mind Noise, is even more avant-garde than his previous works. Dixon wrote and composed all the songs, which vacillate between incredibly delicate ballads and more intense electronic pieces and inspire through their expansive blend of saxophone solos and keyboard riffs, plus drum and bass. (via Bandcamp)


CD coverLara Downes

Reflections: Scott Joplin Reconsidered

Pianist Lara Downes’s latest recording explores Scott Joplin’s music from rags to songs and works from his opera Treemonisha, specially curated to show the depth and range of this American composer. While Joplin’s music and legacy have been subject to exploration and examination over the years, Downes was particularly interested in viewing a wide variety of his music and his story through a modern lens. Downes writes in a booklet essay about Joplin’s life and her first encounter with his music (no surprise, it was “The Entertainer”) and how it influenced her then and now. SFCV reviewed the album in February. (Rising Sun Music)


CD coverEnsemble for These Times

The Guernica Project

Ensemble for These Times has released its fourth CD, The Guernica Project, commemorating the 85th anniversary of Picasso’s painting Guernica and his inspiration, the horrific carpet-bombing of civilians in the Basque town of Gernika, with new music by 21st-century Spanish and California composers: Mario Carro, David Garner, Jeffrey Hoover, and Mercedes Zavala. Musicians on the CD are Nanette McGuinness (soprano), Ilana Blumberg (violin), Anne Lerner (cello), and Dale Tsang (piano); readers are Kenya Autie, Isabel Pérez Dobarro, Jacobo Durán-Loriga, Pilar Marin Gila, Juan Garcia-Herreros, Nanette McGuinness, Ron San Miguel, Claudia Montero, and Mercedes Zavala. (Centaur Records)


CD coverJean Fineberg

Jean Fineberg & JAZZphoria

JAZZphoria is a contemporary original jazz and R&B octet that plays tightly arranged tunes and is led by saxophonist/flutist/composer Jean Fineberg. The musicians featured here have performed or recorded with Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, T-Bone Walker, David Bowie, Melba Liston, Laura Nyro, Andrea Bocelli, and many others. The ensemble’s name refers to the ethereal moment when everyone is in sync and “in the zone.” Fineberg wrote all the tunes at music composition residency fellowships around the U.S., and guitarist Nancy Wenstrom contributed one song. (Pivotal Records)


CD coverCris Forster

Ambisonance

Acoustic music continues to evolve in the workshop, study, and studio of Cris Forster: a builder, acoustician, composer, and musician who created his ensemble of extraordinary acoustic instruments to facilitate the intimate exploration of sound. The 11 compositions chosen for this album are excerpted from two larger works and played by members of the Chrysalis Ensemble. Forster’s work revitalizes the quest for new resonant sources, essential to human music-making. This anthology constitutes an outpouring from his lifelong devotion to his art. (MicroFest Records)


CD coverGabriela Lena Frank

El Rebelde

What is a rebel? El Rebelde brings together the vocal compositions of Gabriela Lena Frank and Dmitri Shostakovich, two composers who transform Spanish-language song through innovative settings. Frank, who was born in Berkeley and now resides in Boonville, often writes music that reflects both her own personal experience and her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a Western classical framework. SFCV covered this release from Art Song Colorado earlier in the year, praising “Frank’s ever-fascinating, fantastical, and rhythmically intense songs.” (DASP Productions)


CD coverBen Goldberg

Ben Goldberg School, Vol. 2: Hard Science

Hard Science is the second record by Ben Goldberg School. It was recorded in July 2021 with a particular strategy: Goldberg didn’t teach the music to the group or rehearse. Instead, he sent around a few of the more complicated passages ahead of time, and then in the studio he just started playing each song and let his fellow musicians grab on as they saw fit. His inspiration was the thought that “if I put written music in front of a musician, I am relying on their reading ability. This way, on the other hand, I am relying on their humanity in the moment.” (Bag Productions)


CD coverKyra Gordon

Soul of a Showgirl

Some albums serve as a snapshot, capturing a musician at a particular moment in time. Berkeley vocalist, songwriter, and keyboardist Kyra Gordon’s Soul of a Showgirl is more like an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, with a series of sharply etched scenes distilled from a life that’s wended from Hollywood to Paris to a jazz conservatory in Berkeley. The music flows from the vicissitudes of Gordon’s footloose life, glinting with insights she’s gleaned along the way. Soul of a Showgirl is her first album, featuring original material, and it introduces a songwriter with an outsized gift for setting emotionally incisive lyrics to beguiling melodic hooks. (via Bandcamp)


CD coverGabrielle Haigh

Il Circolo Respighi

Ottorino Respighi is best known for his orchestral works, but he was also a prolific composer of songs, which have the same colorful melodic and harmonic language. Few are aware that Respighi’s wife Elsa began her musical career as a composer and studied with him. The discovery of Elsa’s songs inspired this arch-form CD from soprano and SF Conservatory of Music graduate Gabrielle Haigh. With four languages and a variety of musical styles, the recording reflects the diverse musical and literary landscape of the early 20th century. Produced and engineered by David v.R. Bowles. (MSR Classics)


CD coverLou Harrison

Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin

Other Minds brings you a near-unheard early composition by legendary American maverick composer Lou Harrison, his Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin (1936), performed by Kate Stenberg. This short piece was written by the precocious composer when he was barely out of high school, still a teenager but already a year deep into studies under Henry Cowell, studies that occurred during Cowell’s stint in San Quentin State Prison. The piece went entirely unheard from its composition until it was uncovered by violinist Gary Beswick, who gave the premiere in 1963. (Other Minds Records)


CD coverHowellDevine

Strange Time Blues

There was never a question as to what to title this 2022 release from this esteemed Bay Area trio HowellDevine would be. Songwriter/guitarist/harmonica player/singer Joshua Howell writes in his notes, “Strange Time Blues, as the title suggests, was born out of these strange times, which have been unrelenting these past few years. Produced in the midst of environmental calamities and the solitude brought about by a global pandemic, the music will naturally reflect these conditions, even without intending to do so.” (Phonic Records)


CD coverLewis Jordan/Music at Large

Critical Mass

Critical Mass represents people coming together in celebration, a sense of victory, and achievement arising from realizing that there is strength in numbers. Through collaboration with a range of artists, saxophonist and poet Lewis Jordan has cultivated a community and a coalition devoted to bringing seemingly disparate pieces into a collective. On Critical Mass, Jordan (alto, baritone, and poetry), Bruce Ackley (soprano and tenor), Sandi Poindexter (violin), Ollen Erich Hunt (bass), and Jimmy Biala (drums/percussion) use improvisation and poetry to access a space of sincerity, engagement, and free expression. (Innova Recordings)


CD coverCalvin Keys

Blue Keys

Calvin Keys has played guitar with such greats as Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and bassist Gerald Holts. Blue Keys features more legends: saxophonist Gary Bartz, trombonist Steve Turre. On nine new recordings, Keys delivers outstanding guitar performances that clearly demonstrate why he is considered an all-time great. Joining him are Black Jazz Records compatriot and bassist Henry Franklin, multi-instrumentalist Gregory Howe, and conga player Babatunde Lea. “Calvin is a natural. His playing is so deep in the pocket, it comes off elegant and effortless,” writes The Mercury News. (Wide Hive Records)


CD coverJennifer Kloetzel/Robert Koenig

Beethoven: The Conquering Hero — Complete Works for Cello and Piano

It was only a matter of time before Jennifer Kloetzel climbed the Mount Everest of the cello repertoire. An acknowledged Beethoven fanatic who has performed all of the composer’s chamber works that include her instrument and recorded the complete string quartets with the Cypress String Quartet, Kloetzel has now released Beethoven: The Conquering Hero with pianist Robert Koenig. The cellist spares no attention to detail across the entire spectrum of this tour de force recording project. SFCV spoke with Koletzel about the album earlier this year. (Avie Records)


CD coverKronos Quartet

Mỹ Lai

On March 16, 1968, the United States Army killed over 500 unarmed civilians in the hamlet of Mỹ Lai, Vietnam. The unimaginable brutality of the event impacted all those who witnessed it firsthand, including helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, who, against orders, intervened to save Vietnamese lives. Thompson’s story is the basis of the opera Mỹ Lai, composed by Jonathan Berger (music) and Harriet Scott Chessman (libretto) for Kronos Quartet, Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, and vocalist Rinde Eckert. This definitive recording of Mỹ Lai captures the visceral, phantasmal depictions of Thompson’s grief, horror, and guilt as he is haunted by persistent memories of that cataclysmic day, half a world and nearly four decades away. (Smithsonian Folkways)


CD coverJeffrey LaDeur

An Artist’s Journey

Jeffrey LaDeur’s latest solo album is devoted to Franz Liszt’s “Première année: Suisse” — the first of three suites forming his Années de pèlerinage (Years of pilgrimage) — and a transcription of Wagner’s Pilgrims’ Chorus from Tannhäuser. An Artist’s Journey explores a landscape of self-reflection that traces Liszt’s journey inward. LaDeur's liner notes are interspersed with paintings of J.M.W. Turner in a luxurious booklet. ClicMusique Magazine lauded, “Throughout the disc, [LaDeur] demonstrates an irreproachable legato, a beautiful palette of nuances, and an always well-balanced sound."” Recorded at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with engineer and producer Matt Carr. (Music & Arts)


CD coverFrank La Rocca

Mass of the Americas (Misa de las Américas)

Cappella Records proudly presents the release of Frank La Rocca’s Mass of the Americas (Misa de las Américas), performed by the Benedict XVI Choir and Orchestra, directed by renowned international conductor Richard Sparks. The work extends the genre of the “Missa solemnis”: a sublime setting of a traditional Latin Mass for choir and orchestra. Listeners will discover a new masterwork: a rich modern tapestry with serene Gregorian chants, folk melodies from 18th-century regions of Mexico, and florid praises in Nahuatl, the language spoken by Our Lady of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego in 1531. (Cappella Records)


CD coverCheryl E. Leonard

Antarctica: Music From the Ice

Antarctica: Music From the Ice is a collection of works 14 years in the making by San Francisco composer Cheryl E. Leonard. A participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, Leonard lived and worked at Palmer Research Station for five weeks in 2009. At this remote outpost, she made pristine field recordings of ice, water, wind, and wildlife. During this time she also gathered (with the proper permits) rocks, shells, and penguin bones, which she later fashioned into the penguin bone idiophones and sculptural percussion instruments featured on this album. These sound sources are woven together into eight carefully crafted compositions that evoke the dynamic environments and ecosystems of the Antarctic Peninsula. (Other Minds Records)


CD coverThe Living Earth Show/Samuel Adams

Lyra

Lyra brings to life hybrid digital-acoustic atmospheres that surround the musicians, revealing a composer who is invested in exploring the dramatic potential of technology in ways that highlight, rather than diminish, the resonant beauty of acoustic instruments. Samuel Adams’s score imagines percussionist Andy Meyerson and guitarist Travis Andrews as one single hyper-instrument — a 21st-century lyre — whose plucked and hammered sounds are mirrored with layers of computer-generated just-intoned resonance. The result is music that straddles the fragile and often imperceptible line between earthly and digital realms. (Earthy Records)


CD coverThe Living Earth Show/Danny Clay

Music for Hard Times

Though its creators describe Music for Hard Times as a New Age album, the music is more experimental and adventurous than one might expect from such a label. Instead of spreading out on a flat, horizontal plane and acting as wallpaper, each track gently articulates emotional peaks and valleys. When composers speak of musical “architecture,” we’re usually talking about form: what happens, when, for how long. But Music for Hard Times becomes a more literal sort of architecture in our minds as we participate in it; it’s a well-considered space to exist in for a while, one which merits attention without demanding it. (Earthy Records)


CD coverChristopher Luna-Mega

Time’s Arrow

Time’s Arrow is a new collection of works by Bay Area environmental composer Christopher Luna-Mega. The album ranges from the delicate flute solo La Torre de Chitor to the dense quartet piece The Arrow of Time, here brilliantly performed by Yarn/Wire. Wood, Wind, and Wire finds Luna-Mega and Diego Villaseñor improvising in the field, interacting with the sound of the natural environment, while the composer’s two Water Studies more rigorously engage with a similar approach, the ensemble playing detailed transcriptions of field recordings. Luna-Mega’s compositional voice is strikingly consistent, especially considering the variety of methods and approaches he employs. The thick textures generate complex harmonies that stretch the limits of consonance without ever becoming grating. (Other Minds Records)


CD coverLunar Noon

Symbolic Creature

Circling a theme of superstition and good luck charms, the songs on this album are about everything from ancient trees to family cake recipes to the new Californian fire season. The title is a nod to the fact that the meaning we find in so many objects and omens comes from associations we assign to them in ultimately arbitrary ways. The 13 songs on this project from Michelle Zheng were written, recorded, and produced between February 2020 and the summer of 2021, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, from Zheng’s bedroom and remotely from the homes and studios of nearly a dozen collaborators during the pandemic. (via Bandcamp)


CD coverMolly Mary Mahoney

My Cousin Cole

When singer Molly Mary Mahoney’s genealogy revealed that Cole Porter was her distant cousin, she knew she had to create an album to honor his music. My Cousin Cole highlights nine of the composer’s love songs, including familiar favorites like “Night and Day” as well as rarely recorded tunes like “Pitter Patter.” This show and album build on the foundation of Mischief!, which Mahoney developed and toured from NYC to London in 2019. Mischief! was a synthesis of Molly’s operatic and musical theater stage work and her love of big band music. (via Bandcamp)


CD coverNorma and Richard Mayer

In the Studio

Norma and Richard Mayer play a fiery brand of chamber music not often associated with their rare musical blend — music for unaccompanied voice and flute. Their operatic arrangements have been acclaimed as a groundbreaking direction in modern music. This year’s album features music by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Franz Liszt, Gaetano Donizetti, Charles Gounod, Harry T. Burleigh, Richard Strauss, Jerome Kern, Cecil Cohen, Undine Smith Moore, and Carlisle Floyd, among others, all in special arrangements for voice and flute by the Mayers. (via Bandcamp)


CD coverMyra Melford’s Fire and Water Quintet

For the Love of Fire and Water

In the world of improvised music, so-called supergroups sometimes feel almost quotidian. After all, there are so many remarkable artists in the space, and understandably, they often want to collaborate. Yet the group that acclaimed pianist and composer Myra Melford has assembled here — with Mary Halvorson on guitar, Ingrid Laubrock on soprano and tenor saxophone, Tomeka Reid on cello, and Susie Ibarra on drums and percussion — invigorates that tired cliche with fresh meaning. The result is a gathering of some of the most compelling improvisers working today. SFCV covered the quintet’s shows at SFJAZZ this fall. (RogueArt)


CD cover[email protected]

Gather, Vols. 1–7

Earlier this year, [email protected] released its live recordings from the 2021 summer festival, the first in-person performances since 2019. Combining timeless classics of the past with a voice from today, the recordings include the premiere performance of Patrick Castillo’s Gather for cello and piano, Franz Schubert’s beloved “Trout” Quintet, Dvořák’s String Sextet, and other chamber music masterworks. These recordings showcase performances by a roster of the world’s finest chamber musicians and are produced by six-time Grammy Award-winning engineer Da-Hong Seetoo, to whom SFCV dedicated a feature article this year. ([email protected] LIVE)


CD coverKim Nalley Band/Houston Person

I Want a Little Boy

In the midst of uncertainty and crisis, Kim Nalley’s voice offers solace and joy. As American society seems determined to unravel, she holds firm to timeless musical truths, delivering a program of songs that embody the best of American culture. She’s in ballad and blues mode here, conducting a master class in pacing and tempo as each arrangement hugs her sensuous voice like a bespoke runway gown. Tenor saxophonist Houston Person, who’s worked with Nalley since her days as proprietor of the lamented North Beach nightspot Jazz at Pearl’s, serves as an ideal foil throughout the album. SFCV spoke with Nalley about the recording earlier this year. (Kim Nalley Jazz Productions)


CD coverNew Vintage Revelers

New Vintage Revelers

Fiddler Harry Liedstrand, banjo player Dan Warrick, and guitarist Paul Kotapish play fierce hoedowns, quirky “crooked” tunes, lonesome ballads, cowboy songs, brother duets, and more. Their instrumentals often favor Liedstrand’s unique repertory of tunes with California origins. Warrick describes the bands approach to the music: “We love these old tunes and songs. We learned them, largely, the old-fashioned way: in living rooms and dance halls, by ear and on the fly, from friends and bandmates. We dug up the old sources, of course. We listened hard. And then we grabbed our instruments and did our damnedest to honor the originators in our own way.” (via Bandcamp)


CD coverBill Ortiz

Points of View

One of the Bay Area’s most dynamic multigenre trumpeters for over four decades, Bill Ortiz recorded and toured the world with Santana for 16 years. Points of View, the title of his first solo album since leaving Santana in 2016, perfectly reflects the great array of influences and the freewheeling playing and stylistic approach he brings to a wide range of classic pieces while leading an ensemble of fellow Bay Area greats. “At its best,” Ortiz says, “music makes people feel something. I wanted the album to feature important pieces that have been overlooked or forgotten, songs I felt could document the sounds and artists that were important to me.” (Left Angle)


CD coverNicholas Phan

Stranger: Works for Tenor by Nico Muhly

Twice Grammy-nominated tenor Nicholas Phan is “one of the world’s most remarkable singers” (Boston Globe). Nico Muhly is one of today’s most sought-after composers. Phan and Muhly’s collaboration began with a commission when the tenor curated a series for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in 2020. The resulting song cycle, Stranger, finds common ground in the musicians’ reflections on identity and immigration, themes that resonate as much today as they have through the centuries. SFCV reviewed the album back in July. (Avie Records)


CD coverPusaka Sunda

Ningnang: Gamelan Degung Music of West Java

Ningnang marks Bay Area ensemble Pusaka Sunda’s fourth recording and features music from the group’s 30th-anniversary concerts and West Java tour. Recorded in the summer of 2021, the album features five gamelan degung compositions by Pusaka Sunda’s director, Burhan Sukarma, and two additional pieces that feature his masterful improvisations. Sukarma’s compositions on Ningnang demonstrate what it really means for music to be “traditional.” He calls upon the many expressive resources of the Sundanese music he has been playing for decades to create meaningful new pieces for the present day. (via Bandcamp)


CD coverJoshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade

LongGone

The members of the legendary original 1990s Joshua Redman Quartet — Redman (saxophone), Brad Mehldau (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) — reunited after 26 years for 2020’s RoundAgain; they return now with LongGone, featuring six original songs by Redman. RoundAgain, the group’s first recording since 1994’s MoodSwing, debuted at number one on many charts, and the album received two Grammy nominations. NPR called it “a flawless effort,” stating that the four musicians have “only gotten better in that time” and are each “at the very top of his game now.” (Nonesuch)


CD coverSam Reider

Petrichor

The past two years represent a homecoming for Sam Reider on many levels. The pianist, accordionist, and composer returned to San Francisco after living for more than a decade in New York City. Reider was reunited with a musical instrument from his childhood in the process: his grandfather’s 1918 Steinway piano. This new record of original compositions offers a musical reflection on this homecoming and also a tribute to some of the pianist-composers who have inspired Reider since he was young: Duke Ellington, James Booker, Keith Jarrett, Claude Debussy, and Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, to name a few. (Slow & Steady)


CD coverJackie Ryan

Recuerdos de mi Madre

On her previous six albums, dating back to 2001, and in all of her performances, Bay Area vocalist Jackie Ryan has often featured Spanish-language songs in memory of her Mexican-born mother Soledad Garcia. Ryan’s new CD, Recuerdos de mi Madre, is inspired by and dedicated to Soledad and includes many of the songs Ryan spent her San Rafael childhood soaking up: “Siboney,” “El día que me quieras,” “Perfidia,” “Maria Elena,” “Noche de ronda.” Marco Diaz handled arrangements; saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera guests on three tracks. (OpenArt Productions)


CD coverSan Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus

Songs of the Phoenix

In the early days of the pandemic, Artistic Director Tim Seelig and Broadway composer Andrew Lippa began conversations about completing a trilogy of works created by Lippa for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. The first two were I Am Harvey Milk (2013) and Unbreakable (2018). Both had words and music by Lippa. This time, the composer offered to curate a work that would address the events of 2020. Lippa envisioned a large piece created by as diverse a group of librettists and composers as possible. Two years later, Songs of the Phoenix was birthed with the world premiere on April 10, 2022, at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. (Broadway Records)


CD coverSanta Rosa Symphony/Francesco Lecce-Chong/Zuill Bailey

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Cello Concerto and Other Works

The great cellist Zuill Bailey begins this program with the world premiere recording of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s beautiful Cello Concerto, a new and important work traversing many elements of the instrument’s singing sound. Zwilich writes, “One of the things I love about the cello is that it covers virtually the entire range of the human voice. … My Cello Concerto engages both the lyrical, singing nature of the instrument and its technical possibilities.” More works by Zwilich, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, follow, interpreted by the Santa Rosa Symphony and conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. (Delos)


CD coverKindra Scharich/Ricardo Ballestero

Chosen Eyes: Nepomuceno and His European Contemporaries

Mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Ricardo Ballestero offer an exquisite recital dedicated to Brazilian composer Alberto Nepomuceno (1864–1920), considered to be the founder of Brazilian art song. Nepomuceno deeply absorbed the influence of the German lied and French mélodie and combined them with characteristic rhythms and melodic elements from his native country. Featured on this album are nine of his non-Portuguese songs, five of which are world premiere recordings. Also included are songs by his European contemporaries Ernest Chausson, Edvard Grieg, and Richard Strauss. Produced and engineered by Matt Carr. (Music & Arts)


CD coverSLUGish Ensemble

Live at Sam First

Riding on the acclaim of the band’s 2018 debut studio album, An Eight Out of Nine, SLUGish bandleader and multi-reedist Steven Lugerner assembled a Bay Area-based lineup of an ensemble that could perform regularly or, as Lugerner puts it, “a crew of good friends who could commit to being ‘in a band’, to form a true musical camaraderie, a cohesive sound.” Picking up the mantle of the original SLUGish rhythm section are keyboardist Javier Santiago, bassist Giulio Xavier Cetto, and drummer Michael Mitchell. Guitarist Justin Rock, the sole member who recorded on the debut album, also joins the mix. (Slow & Steady)

Did you enjoy the article?

Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest articles every Tuesday