NOTE: MeLCat services have been temporarily suspended until December 11 due to technical reasons. Thank you for your patience. Learn more...

RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Music

Sinatra: The Radio Years

One of the truly legendary voices of the 20th century came from Hoboken, New Jersey. Born in 1915, his name was Frank Sinatra, aka, The Chairman of the Board, America's first pop culture phenomena. From the mid 1930’s until his death in 1998, Sinatra’s musical catalog is a remarkable achievement, having sung wartime torch songs, swinging jazz standards, romantic laments, and bossa nova. The newest batch of songs to be released posthumously is a collection of his radio performances called Sinatra: A Voice on Air (1935-1955). Available now on Freegal for download and streaming, Sinatra’s inimitable voice has never known a past its sell date.

A Love Supreme Turns 50

Saxophonist John Coltrane’s legendary composition A Love Supreme was released 50 years ago. By 1965, Coltrane’s profound experimentation with improvisation and the increasing influence of Eastern and Middle Eastern spirituality resulted in one of his most memorable works, a piece of jazz that melds together the hard bop of the late 1950’s with the daring, anarchic dissonance of his late 1960’s free jazz. The entire song can be found on the The Classic Quartet: Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings along with many other of Trane's groundbreaking catalog. 

Autumn Leaves

Soon, many of us will pick up our rakes and blowers so as to clear away the descending leaves from our lawn. I also find that I tend to listen to more jazz when the weather begins to cool so it got me thinking about the classic song Autumn Leaves, a jazz standard that has been performed by hundreds of musicians over the years. It's a great song that evokes the kind of nostalgic longing that seems to fit perfectly with the season for donuts, apple cider and the turning of the leaves. Here's a version from pianist Keith Jarret:  A more recent version from actress Emmy Rossum:  One of my favorites by the great French singer Edith Piaf:

Stream or Download via Freegal

Freegal is your access to free downloaded music from the Sony Music catalog. A streaming option has now been added to their catalog. Download 5 of your favorite songs each week or listen to a full album by streaming (5 hours/week). Visit our Download page on the KPL site for more information and helpful links to our other digital services.

One of the most buzzed about jazz albums of the year is Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975, the Bootleg Series Volume 4. Our compact disc copy will be here soon but if you don't want to wait, stream this extraordinary portrait of one of jazz's most important innovators which includes performances with legendary collaborators John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Julien "Cannonball" Adderley. 

Favorite Albums of 2015 So Far

My co-worker Kevin posted his favorite music of the year several weeks back and now I'm following up with my own. I know of a certain band called Beach House whose newest release will likely end up on my list come 2016 but for now, here goes:

Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell
Bryan Ferry, Avonmore
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
The Tallest Man on Earth, Dark Bird Is Home
Leon Bridges, Coming Home
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
Miles Davis, Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4
Tame Impala, Currents
Jessica Pratt, On Your Own, Love Again
Ariel Pink, Pom Pom
Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2

Tony and Bill

Sometimes I'll judge an album by its cover. I know I shouldn't but when terrible hairdos, wide ties and 1970's polyester are involved, c'mon, can it really be worth listening to? Well, look beyond the corny cover photograph and you'll find a lot to like about this album which pairs two musical heavy weights together as they make their way through sorrowful laments and heart-felt longing. This album cobbles together two previous titles, The Tony Bennett and Bill Evans Album (1975) and 1977's Together Again. Bennett, at the time of the recordings, was not considered a "jazz singer" as much as troubadour of Broadway tunes and American Songbook Standards and these recordings certainly suggest that his enthusiasm for jazz was greater than his skill set. He did however correctly choose to marry his vocal strengths with a talented piano player who can more than hold his own when Bennett takes a breather from the mic. The results are excellent and jazz listeners will eat up this classic if they haven't heard it already.

Nina Simone

A new Netflix documentary titled What Happened, Miss Simone? has recently generated interest from film and music critics. Simone was a true original in every sense of the term. Her resume includes being a classically trained musician who attended Julliard, a vocal civil rights firebrand who wrote songs memorializing MLK and the young victims of a church bombing in Mississippi (Mississippi Goddamn), and an innovative Jazz vocalist who often mixed her classical training into her renditions of Jazz and Blues standards. She was also a complex human being who suffered from mental illness and butted heads with the music industry throughout much of her career. She’s widely considered one of the great musicians of the 20th century. Check out her music from the library’s music collection or stream the albums through Hoopla and Freegal.

Updating the Classics

For those who like pop music of the 1960’s but who may have grown weary of the original version of their favorite songs may want to give the newest She & Him album a try. Simply and aptly named Classics, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel tackle mostly A-side covers of well-worn pop and jazz tunes with the same level of sweetness and whimsy of their previous work. For those who are familiar with the duo’s love of all things twee and vintage, you won’t be surprised that their engagement with standards like Unchained Melody, Time After Time, Stay Awhile and This Girl’s In Love with You is freshly updated yet still rooted to the song’s era and personality. For some, this will be an exercise in pointless recycling but for others, an entertaining tribute.

Bargains in the Basement - Live and Local


This week’s #1 find was from KPL’s extensive music collection; a copy of the Ken Morgan Jazz Unit (Ken Morgan, saxophones, flute; Gail Baker, vocals; Matt Jackson, piano; Paul Erhard, bass; Mike Roush, drums), recorded Live at Chaps on Main (remember Chaps?) on a very cool Saturday evening in February, 1979. I have a copy of this on vinyl from long ago, but I must admit that I haven’t played it in quite some time. After listening to the CD, I found it rather remarkable how well the music holds up some three-and-a-half decades later. The sound is clean, bright, and immediate, and the band is on fire. Do yourself a favor and give this one a spin (again), it’s worth the effort.


My other pre-holiday treat was a somewhat more recent (and also local) Friends Find, a 2007 10-track compilation from the WMU Jazz Studies Program called Jazz Tracks (and since this copy comes from the Friends Bookstore, I get to keep it!). Jazz Tracks features the usual WMU musical heavyweights; Western Jazz Quartet (Trent Kynaston, Tom Knific, Steve Zegree, Tim Fronek), University Jazz Orchestra, the Justin Avery Band, and others. The CD also comes with a couple of video clips buried deep inside, including Gold Company performing a Duke Ellington tune on stage with none other than Bobby McFerrin. How cool is that?! And here’s a holiday hint… there is a small box of other assorted local (WMU, KSO, etc.) CDs sitting on the shelf in the Friends Bookstore, right next to the local books. Just right for budget priced stocking stuffing!

Bargains in the Basement is an occasional series highlighting noteworthy items unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to help support the library. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

The Voice of Christmas

Bing Crosby's famous rendition of White Christmas may well be the most beloved and well known holiday song. It's a song that every December becomes an ubiquitous element of everyday life, almost inescapable as it leaks into existence from mall speakers, headphones and television sets. A new biographical portrait of Crosby's personal and professional life as well as his pop cultural significance will be featured on the PBS television program American Masters this Tuesday (December 2nd). Interested in more than just his holiday songs, check out more here.