Peter G. Davis, the longtime classical critic of New York magazine, has died at the age of eighty-four. He was one of the best and wisest writers ever to practice this odd profession. His knowledge of opera was comprehensive — his 1997 book The American Opera Singer is an essential and absorbing work — but he wrote authoritatively about every aspect of the field. Given his focus on opera, many of his readers wouldn’t have been aware that he studied composition in his youth; that training showed whenever he wrote about new music. He had a marvelous wry sense of humor that gave a playful edge to his often very tart comments about the foibles of musical life. I treasured him as a colleague, even though we never really interacted beyond the aisles of the concert hall and opera house. Particularly when I was a younger critic, I learned vastly from him, and felt a mixture of pride and panic when my installation at The New Yorker led me to be seated behind him at many events. I remember fondly those moments at the Met when, about twenty minutes into a performance that was veering toward disaster, he would incline his head ever so slightly in my direction, with an unmistakable signal of “Oh God, here we go.” I feel much the same as when Andrew Porter died: an immense storehouse of experience and perception is suddenly gone.
As lockdown rumbles on, we remain massively grateful for the steady stream of terrific new music that helps us feel connected, uplifted, transported and all the other stuff that’s otherwise in short supply right now.
Here are some of the tunes that have been brightening our corners this week, including a stunning sighter from Ryley Walker’s new album, the cheeringly swift return of Rose City Band, Hand Habits covering Neil Young, a breezy Hammond jam c/o Dr Lonnie Smith, twilight magic from Japan’s Richard Barbieri and another instalment of gleeful avant scampering from John Dwyer and friends.
Thanks to all the labels and musicians involved! You’ll be able to read about some of them in the new issue of Uncut, of which more news tomorrow…
ROSE CITY BAND
Earth Trip by Rose City Band
“I Believe In You”
“How Many Times”
(Full Time Hobby)
“Nothing At All”
Marielle by Mark McGuire
“Urban Driftwood ft. Amadou Kouyate”
DR LONNIE SMITH
JOHN DWYER, TED BYRNES, GREG COATES, TOM DOLAS, BRAD CAULKINS
(The Leaf Label)
The Alias Sessions by Murcof
Brother Sea is celtic-folk band that brings together four talented musicians from different walks of life, forming what can only be described as raw and organic campfire stories exploring heritage and folklore as they gently flicker through captivating soundscapes.
Their track Circadian really stood out, taking you on a journey between sincere and beautiful innocence and bold, sweeping fun. The songwriting has parallels to that of the seasoned folk duo and Richer Unsigned friends, Bear’s Den, with added sea salt from the wind swept, rugged coast of Cornwall. The band has released an EP and a few single this far, so expect more exciting music in the future.
“Life and dream of life — suddenly it’s all over.”
— Altenberg Lieder
Previously: An Alban Berg Valentine, Another Alban Berg Valentine, Yet Another Alban Berg Valentine, Return of Alban Berg Valentine, Nothing says forever like an Alban Berg Valentine, Alban Berg Valentine (10th anniversary edition), Alban Berg Valentine (2017 edition), Will you be my Alban Berg Valentine?, Eternity, by Alban Berg Valentine, My Bloody Alban Berg Valentine.