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In Rotation: The Beatles, Baby Face Willette & The Sheepdogs

Spring is in the air and we’re listening to a lot of new and old music on vinyl right now. The Sheepdogs bring us home this week.

The Beatles 1 album set

Cymin Samawatie/Ketan Bhatti – Trickster Orchestra (ECM, 2021, Qobuz 24-bit/88.2kHz)

At the end of each day, I spend around ten minutes going through all of the new releases on Qobuz and Tidal in the genres that interest me. I add a lot of new music each week to my Roon library, but I rarely have enough time to enjoy more than a few tracks from new albums because deadlines have to be met. I’m a huge ECM fan and the album art of Trickster Orchestra caught my attention. 

Trickster Orchestra
Cymin Samawatie/Ketan Bhatti – Trickster Orchestra
(ECM, 2021, Qobuz 24-bit/88.2kHz) — Buy at Amazon

What piqued my curiosity more was reading the title of the first track, “Shir Hamaalot” which is a Jewish prayer that I daven at the end of every Sabbath and Holy Day meal. “Shir Hamaalot” refers mainly to the hope of the return of the Children of Israel from the Babylonian exile in the past and is used during mealtime as a prayer for future redemption which should be mentioned in times of happiness. The translation from the Hebrew is the “Song of Ascents” and I was quite moved to find it as the title track. 

Cymin Samawatie and Ketan Bhatti are part of Cyminology, a Berlin-based jazz band that performs most of its music in Persian (Farsi). The album has a very complex feel to it with multiple layers of both jazz and classical music intertwined. A surprising find and quite beautiful. – Ian White

“Baby Face” Willette – Face to Face (1961/2019)

Baby Face Willette: Face to Face Album
Buy at Amazon

In January and May of 1961, “Baby Face” Willette (organ) and Grant Green (guitar) – both still early in their careers – teamed up on three sessions, recording as a trio with Ben Dixon (drums) and resulting in Green’s first album as leader (Grant’s First Stand) and two Willette-led releases (Stop and Listen, and Face to Face, with Fred Jackson added on saxophone). All three records are soul jazz classics, with some real swing and a heavy blues influence.

Face to Face, with five of six tracks Willette originals, was re-issued in 2019 as one of the early Tone Poet releases. As with all the Tone Poets, the original analogue tapes were remastered by Kevin Gray (currently the remastering guy in jazz circles) and pressed on 180 gram vinyl by RTI. Sound quality is superb, and the group interplay is tight; there is a real synergy all through. Willette’s organ play punches and grooves, Green’s guitar work is loose and relaxed, Dixon drives and controls quietly, and Jackson blows out of his skin (never heard him better). A toe-tapper if ever there was one, and I wish this grouping had recorded together more often. – Eric Pye

Arne Domnérus – Jazz at The Pawnshop (1977)

Swedish jazz? No, that is not an oxymoron. Live Swedish jazz? That neither. Neophyte jazz listeners may be surprised to hear that one of the most iconic live jazz sessions ever recorded took place over two nights at a jazz club in Stockholm – the Pawnshop in December 1976. But it did. These sessions resulted in the almost immediate release of the double album Jazz at The Pawnshop, and two follow-ups 15 years later. 

The first release took the jazz world by storm, and the little Proprius label that recorded it had a hard time keeping up with demand. It sold like hotcakes, and amongst audiophiles became a reference recording for testing and evaluating turntables, CD and SACD players, amplifiers, speakers, even audio cables. The playing by a group of five relatively unknown Swedish jazz artists, led by Arne Domnérus, is wonderful, and the sound quality, as might be expected of an audiophile cult classic, is exceptional. 

This ranks right up there with Miles’ My Funny Valentine and Di Meola, De Lucia and McLaughlin’s Friday Night in San Francisco as must-have live albums in any jazz collection. Definitely worth an add if you don’t have a copy. – Eric Pye

The Sheepdogs – Learn & Burn

My favorite Canadian musician is Neil Young, but my favorite Canadian band is The Sheepdogs. I discovered them way too late, about ten years and five albums after their 2007 debut. But it is really never too late to discover new favorites. Their last record, Changing Colours, sent me down a path of major obsession with their entire discography. One of the standouts for me is their 2010 record Learn & Burn. It’s exemplary of the Sheepdogs’ classic, southern rock sound and killer songwriting from lead singer and guitarist, Ewan Currie.

It has a good filling of sweet guitar riffs (“Southern Dreaming”), foot-stomping sing-alongs (“I Don’t Know”), and all-out rock ’n’ roll (“Soldier Boy”). Highly recommend as an entry point to the band. – Lauren Halliday 

The Beatles – 1

I never really realized how influential this little compilation was until I started seeing so many people online share stories similar to mine. 1 was the first Beatles album I ever owned. I played this on CD like crazy. For many people around my age, this was our introduction to The Beatles. It was the 21st century equivalent of the Red and Blue albums. 

I was surprised to look it up and find out that it has sold over 31 million copies. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because it’s The Beatles, but 1 has clearly had a huge impact on maintaining and inspiring the next generation of Beatles fans. It wasn’t easy to find on vinyl for a while, but after some recent reissues I was very excited to find it at my local record store not too long ago. It’s a great title to have in the collection for an easy spin when you’re in a Beatles mood. – Lauren Halliday

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