There are a few albums going on right now at NPR’s First Listen that are worth mentioning, even if briefly. The first is Hilary Hahn’s impending album, on which she recorded Jennifer Higdon’s excellent new violin concerto, coupled with a new recording of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto (one of my absolute favorites). The jury is out for me on her interpretation of Tchaikovsky, since my very first impressions take some tempos a bit more liberally that I prefer, but her execution is impeccable, of course.
Another album that will be quickly released comes from the ever-soulful John Legend and The Roots. The album, entitled Wake Up, takes old soul tracks and gives them a bit of a modern spin. I’ve always loved John Legend’s voice while mostly loathing the songs he chooses to record, save room for a couple. The Roots are similar in this regard for me: I’ve wanted to like them for a long time, since Phrenology and a live album of theirs, but I’ve found them to be a bit hard to listen to. But when you take both of these artists together, with the excellent choice of material, you get Wake Up, which is wonderful collaboration, exactly what I want from these artists, and ultimately an important album.
Finally, I’m listening to Aloe Blacc, an artist whom I don’t know, on his new album Good Things. I’ve just queued this up, but this right here is what I like. It reminds me immediately of a modern Bill Withers. That can’t be a bad thing.