In next week's paper I preview the upcoming MCA concerts
by Eighth Blackbird
, which will premiere an all-new program of commissions by bold composers' collective Sleeping Giant. These concerts, part of the group's yearlong residency at the museum, come just a few months after their latest album, Filament
(Cedille), which earned them yet another Grammy nomination for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance; Eighth Blackbird have won the award three times so far.
The album opens with a seven-movement work by National guitarist Bryce Dessner called Murder Ballads
, which adapts classic folk songs. Eighth Blackbird have released a stunning video for "Pretty Polly," a tune of British origin that took on a life of its own in America, where it became a standard in bluegrass circles thanks to the Stanley Brothers. (Its lyrics describe an archetypal version of the "If I can't have you, nobody will" bit—the narrator kills his beloved because he suspects she's cheating on him.) The video follows the original story line, about a ship's carpenter who promises to marry the woman of the title but murders her when she becomes pregnant; at sea he's haunted by her ghost and driven to madness. The lovely animations were made by former Chicagoan Nathaniel Murphy.
Jackie McLean, Destination Out
James Ehnes & the Seattle Chamber Music Society, American Chamber Music
Sun Ra, Concert for the Comet Kohoutek
O.C. Tolbert, Black Diamond: Dave Hamilton's Detroit Masters
John Graas, Jazz Studio 1/2: Complete Sessions
(Lone Hill Jazz)