Cool Spins

John Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls (Nonesuch) This stirring 25-minute opus by contemporary classical composer John Adams was commissioned by the
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John Adams:
On the Transmigration of Souls
(Nonesuch)

This stirring 25-minute opus by contemporary classical composer John Adams was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack of 9/11/01. It rises out of an audio cityscape with a young boy repeating the word “missing,” as other voices drift in an out reading names of some of the missing. A heavenly choir (the Brooklyn Youth Chorus) and the orchestra slowly enter the scene, somber yet beautiful, conveying both the numbness and sorrow we all felt in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. As the piece progresses, the spoken track becomes more personal — the voices say things like “We will miss you” and “We love you, Louie, come home” — and the orchestra and choir gracefully build from a haunting, hymn-like plateau to a great, cacophonous roar that somehow captures the madness, confusion, rage and shattering grief of the event. Then, Adams gently drops us back in the sad aftermath: “My sister…” “My brother…” “It was a beautiful day…” and the sounds of the city are heard once again. It's a remarkable work that will affect every listener differently, but it's impossible not to be moved by its graceful arc.

Producers: John Adams and Lawrence Rock. Engineer: Rock. Soundscape engineering: Mark Grey. Recorded in concert at Avery Fisher Hall (NYC). Mixed by John Kilgore at Masque Sound (NYC). Mastering: Bob Ludwig/Gateway Mastering (Portland, ME).
Blair Jackson

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown:
Timeless
(Hightone)

Gatemouth Brown has never felt restricted to any one musical idiom — rather, he embraces them all, and time and again, he's shown himself to be a master of most. There aren't many players who could get away with an album that mixes jazz standards like “Soft Wind” and “Satin Doll” with Joe Zawinul's soulful “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” gut-wrenching blues and jump blues, Cajun-influenced pieces and country songs. Gate tackles 'em all, unleashing that distinctive and highly expressive guitar on ballads and boppers alike, showing his supreme good taste and imagination as a player. (There's the requisite amount of Gatemouth fiddle on here, too.) Throughout this superb-sounding disc, he's supported by a stunningly good band anchored by bassist Harold Floyd and drummer Lloyd Herman. Gate's comically bizarre spoken intro to “The Drifter” notwithstanding, this is an album of seriously beautiful and, at times, swinging music. My dark horse favorite: a lyrical reading of “Unchained Melody” featuring Gatemouth at his most delicate and lovely piano work by Don Matrazzo. Cool from top to bottom!

Producers: Clarence Brown and Jim Bateman. Recorded and mixed by David Farrell. Studio: Ultrasonic (New Orleans) and live on location. Mastering: Peter Dinkins/Master Digital (New Orleans).
Blair Jackson

Chuck Prophet:
Age of Miracles
(New West Records)

Chuck Prophet's seventh album arrives after 12 years as a solo artist, peaking with his 2002 “adult alternative” single, “Summertime Thing.” This go 'round promises to raise the San Franciscan's profile even higher, as he raises the bar with a mix of blues (“Automatic Blues”), funk, psychedelic pop (“Age of Miracles”) and country rock.

Prophet's signature drone tumbles out Lou Reed — ish poetic ramblings on “You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp),” while wife Stephanie Finch lays down retro vintage keyboard parts. The combination is wistful, like someone mulling over the events of a long night in the city's dark watering holes while riding a near-empty late-night bus home. Players hail from Nashville, San Francisco and points between, creating an album that's crafted, modern and full of fine writing and melody, but not without its roots.

Producers: Chuck Prophet, Eric Drew Feldman. Engineers: Justin Phelps, Craig Schumacher, Dave Trumfio, Michael Krassner, Roger Moutenot. Studios: Roly's Pad, Hyde Street, The Plant (San Francisco), Wavelab (Tucson, Ariz.), Kingsize Sound Labs (L.A.), Studio 491 (Nashville). Mixed by Roger Moutenot at Studio 491 (NYC). Mastering: Gavin Lurssen, The Mastering Lab (L.A.)
Heather Johnson