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The Pauseandplay.com Record Roundup

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Liat Cohen, et al.

Paris – Madrid

Warner Classics

Franco-Israeli classical guitarist Liat Cohen joins Rolando Villazon (tenor), Charles Castronovo (tenor), and Sandrine Piau (soprano) to form an international quartet on Paris – Madrid. The 29 tracks include vocal and instrumental works by French and Spanish (and Basque) composers Faure, Ravel, Massenet, Falla, Albeniz, Rodrigo, Granados and others. The performances are by turns romantic, impressionistic, meditative and dramatic—as only a Spanish/French collaboration could be. Cohen is definitely in the driver’s seat, managing both to lead and follow the vocalists, and they hold their own. You could ponder away your whole day reflecting on the sheer technique exhibited here.

– Bruce Collier

John Legend

A Legendary Christmas

Columbia

John Legend has a Christmas album to go with his NBC special with spouse Chrissy Teigen. The cover art harks back to albums by Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis in the ‘50s and ’60s, but this is more than just an obligatory yuletide exercise. It starts brilliantly, with Stevie Wonder (68 years old) joining Legend on “What Christmas Means to Me.” What follows includes standards like “Silver Bells,” Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here.” Legend has big band charm and the warmest voice since Nat “King” Cole. Esperanza Spalding also guests, which clinches the deal.

– Bruce Collier

Brian Newman

Showboat

Verve

Jazz trumpeter Brian Newman shoots the works on Showboat. The 11-track album’s cover art suggests straightahead or even smooth jazz, but Newman offers songs by Tom Waits (“Jockey Full of Bourbon”), Thin Lizzy, Beck, and a bunch of other rock-pop-jazz artists you wouldn’t think would fit together. If that doesn’t interest you, he duets Benny Benjamin’s “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” with Lady Gaga (a pal and touring collaborator from way back). Newman’s style is wide-open, bold and high-flying, like vintage Freddie Hubbard. He seems equally comfortable with rock, Latin, and Vegas-style cabaret. If you like samplers, sample this.

– Bruce Collier

Precubed

Three

Independent

Pensacola’s Precubed is what happens when post-rock and ‘80s synth have a glorious love child. It’s an instrumental endeavor about crafting soundscapes, whether it’s the John Carpenteresque “Epaulette” or “Silver Mountain,” which could easily accompany an epic space-related video game boss battle. Precubed seems to have a varied group of influences, spawning music that straddles between many worlds and musical genres.

– Nikki Hedrick

Jesh Yancey

Livers and Diers

Independent

With southern characteristics held tight and a focus on storytelling, Yancey invites everyone to pull up a barstool and soak in his homespun wisdom. This full-length release nicely frames Yancey as one of the region’s most sought-after singer-songwriters. Twangy enough to entice country fans and with a few upbeat licks to hook rock fans, Yancey hopes you get off your keister and continue to be a Liver.

– Nikki Hedrick

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Alejandro Escovedo

The Crossing

Yep Roc

Every morning when I wake up, the first words out of my mouth are “Thank God for Bruce Collier,” because he reviewed one of this season’s new Christmas releases so I wouldn’t have to. Not that I don’t like holiday music, but the only new LP I’ve spent any time with this month is Rodney Crowell’s—a good one, but it requires a few more spins for me to get my heart and head around it. Meantime, check out the latest from Mr. Escovedo, who continues to charge forward musically, lyrically and thematically. If Christmas truly is about compassion, the songs on The Crossing are essential listening this time of the year.

– Chris Manson

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