The music of Spanish composer/guitarist Francisco Tárrega eluded me before listening to this CD, but I knew one of his tunes. I bet you know it, too, because it’s heard about 1.8 billion times a day—ever since Nokia used a snippet of Tárrega’s “Gran Vals” on its phones, making it the very first recognizable musical ringtone. It’s been in heavy rotation ever since. This Barrueco CD provides an ideal entry point for anyone even remotely interested in the composer of the “Nokia Tune” and his formidable body of work. Over the course of 25 selections, Barrueco, a consummate guitarist and Peabody instructor, turns in yet another dazzling performance that’s rich in tone, generous in spirit, and wide in scope. In addition to his original compositions, the disc includes Tárrega’s transcriptions of Mendelssohn and Schumann. And it also includes more than four bars of “Gran Vals.”
In the middle of this suite of pieces reflecting on love and loss, Amour offers a remarkably candid assessment of a troubled mother/daughter relationship that, because of the mother’s death, may never heal. After sing-songing a bit of “Swing Low” in “Ode to My Mother,” the Baltimore-based spoken-word artist riffs about sleeping away the pain, but not so much the pain of losing her mother. Instead, she feels disappointed in her mother’s faults and shortcomings and realizes that the fantasies she had about righting past wrongs have died along with her mom. And that’s the ultimate disappointment. It’s a bracing two-minute confession at the heart of a disc that’s too reliant on self-help platitudes that tend to deflect from such honesty. But I’ll bet Amour’s mom has a gift for her daughter, if she allows herself to access it—a wealth of material more like that two-minute flashpoint, maybe even a one-woman show that transcends her disappointment altogether.
New Logic for Old Saxophones (Creative Sources)
A fixture on the local improvised music scene, Berndt consistently challenges listeners by twisting convention, turning left at most forks along his creative path, and dispensing a steady stream of skronks and screeches from his sax. With that in mind, these 15 saxophone solos come across as surprisingly conventional as Berndt exhibits a keen understanding of acoustic and dynamic flow, as well as a deep appreciation for free-jazz titans such as Anthony Braxton. This is evocative music, not so plain and not so simple.