Robert L. Cohen, Editor Words TESTIMONIAL

“Words make you think thoughts; music makes you feel a feeling; but a song makes you feel a thought.”

— Yip Harburg, lyricist for “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” “Over the Rainbow,” and all the (other) songs from The Wizard of Oz

Open the Gates!
New American- Jewish Music for Prayer

A compilation CD of American-Jewish “heart music” for prayer, dance, meditation, & healing: Jewish bluegrass & Jewish country, Jewish “world music,” English & Hebrew spiritual melodies, & a cappella harmony singing

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How sad it was to hear of the death of Nanci Griffith, an exceptional singer-songwriter with Texas/country roots and an original “folkabilly” style. Her exquisite “Love at the Five and Dime” is really a classic ballad — “musical storytelling with a literary flavor,” as one obituary put it: a story-song like “Barbara Allen” or “Gypsy Davy.” But Nanci’s exquisite song tells a very contemporary story, complete with gritty details of a real-life love story. It’s a touching and beautiful song and was a huge hit for the country singer Kathy Mattea — but I prefer Nanci’s own version (on The Last of the True Believers).

Tony Bennett & Bill Evans
The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album

As Tony Bennett has officially announced his retirement after a legendary 70-year career, it seems fitting to highlight the first of two albums that he considered his best: “the most prestigious thing he ever did,” according to the renowned music journalist Will Friedwald.

Rather than a conventional singer-with-accompanying-pianist, this record is more of a partnership between equals: Bennett and the renowned jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. The result is nine superbly rendered songs: Leonard Bernstein’s haunting “Some Other Time” (with lyrics by Comden & Green; “easily Bernstein’s best-known song in the jazz world,” according to Friedwald); Evans’s own “Waltz for Debbie,” with a rare vocal by Bennett; “Days of Wine and Roses” — emotionally nuanced but intensely expressive songs, personalized with Bennett’s and Evans’s masterly phrasing: sometimes vibrant, sometimes understated. This may be the best jazz vocal album ever.

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