Recorded in 1992, Night Bird Song remained in the can for seven years before Knitting Factory released it in 1999. Thomas Chapin had met an untimely death from leukemia in February 1998 (he was only 40), and this posthumous release was greeted with great enthusiasm by those who were hip to the saxman/flutist's music.
It's regrettable that this avant-garde/post-bop recording went unreleased for so long, for Chapin's trio (which included bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin) is inspired, unpredictable, and cohesive throughout the album. Sticking to his own compositions, Chapin favors an inside/outside approach and fluctuates between moments of quiet, AACM-influenced reflection and intensely emotional playing. Chapin's pieces tend to be cerebral and angular and don't go out of their way to be accessible, but they're well worth exploring because the expressive improviser had a lot to say. Whether he's playing the alto sax, sopranino sax, flute, or alto flute, Chapin's restless spirit serves him well throughout Night Bird Song.
Sadly, the majority of Tex Owens' official commercial recordings, done for RCA-Victor in 1936, are missing.
Still, this CD runs to 22 tracks, encompassing the four songs he cut as a solo artist for Decca in August of 1934, his Texas Rangers collaboration "Dude Ranch Parts 1 and 2," and the four 1953-1954 sides for Wrightman. The rest are previously unissued demos of unknown origin or date, licensed from Owens' widow and comprising songs that only show up on lists of Tex's compositions, not his recordings.
The sound is generally good, with only moderate noise on the worst of the masters. Owens' demos are nearly as engaging as his formal recordings, and surprisingly include some backing musicians, as well as Owens' requisite guitar. Highlights, in addition to the title track and the pair of songs with the Texas Rangers, include "Daddy's Old Rocking Chair," "Cowboy Call," and "Don't Hide Your Tears My Darling."
As a composer, arranger, and performer, Robert Burger has worked with a variety of musicians, including Bill Frisell, Marianne Faithfull, Rufus Wainwright, and Laurie Anderson. This release of selections from his music for film includes tracks from the soundtracks to the films Diminished Capacity (2008, directed by Terry Kinney), and Timescapes: A Portrait of New York (2005, directed by Jake Barton and James Sanders), and a track to accompany Ladislaw Starewicz's The Cameraman's Revenge (1912).
The tracks are brief and aphoristic, most lasting only a minute or two, and they make their statement effectively and bow out before they've worn out their welcome. Burger's music is gently melodic, often rhythmically punchy, comfortable, and familiar sounding, with various folk traditions, jazz and light rock influences filtered through a freely classical sensibility.
He uses mostly a broad assortment of acoustic instruments (including piano, accordion, marimba, vibraphone, assorted percussion, violin, viola, ukulele, and harmonica), but some tracks include electric guitar and keyboards.
The music is notable for its variety and for its delicate, inventive orchestrations. Many tracks have a folk-like sound, but the variety of instruments he uses allows for richer and more varied textures than many conventional, small folk ensembles. Even though the tracks are widely diverse in tone, style, and instrumentation, certain themes return on various tracks, and the album is fully successful as an integrated listening experience. The sound is clean and resonant.