Lovely Recordings Hosted by Bob Karp

I’ve been reading (and looking forward to) Lovely Recordings since the column first appeared. All of you have introduced me to fabulous things that I likely would have never heard otherwise. I am in debt to you, and I hope I might pay back at least a little with the list below. All of this music is available on Tidal.

Harold Budd: The Pavilion of Dreams (Virgin Records, 1978)
Back when vinyl ruled the sonic world … a friend recommended this album to me for, er, late-night recreation. I searched for years to find a copy. (Yeah, that’s right, before the web and Google it was actually hard to find some things!) I still remember the thrill of stumbling upon a copy in the Imports bin of one of my favorite record stores. I couldn’t wait to play it! And I wasn’t disappointed. It has remained a long-term favorite, decades later. This is slow, late-night, lose-yourself music. Play it softly in the background and enjoy it as you please. (And if you’re still, or newly, spinning vinyl—and can find a copy—the vinyl does sound better than Tidal or the CD.)

Available from Tidal

Habib Koité & Bamada: Baro (Putumayo, 2001)
I enjoy a lot of African music, especially from Mali. Some time ago when the Putumayo label was touring their first Acoustic Africa line-up, I had the good fortune to attend one of the concerts. Habib was one of the featured artists. All of us have been at performances that just sweep you away—the music and the energy of the performers and the engagement of the crowd creates an experience that just goes beyond words.

This show delivered that experience in spades. So, of course, I began attending shows by the individual artists and buying their music. I’ve now seen Habib many times, together with the full Bamada band, as well as with smaller groups (such as when touring with Eric Bibb, which was outstanding). Baro is one of my favorite Habib albums. This is easy listening—very laid-back and accessible.

Available from Tidal

Oscar Peterson, Stefane Grapelli, Joe Pass, Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen: Skol (Original Jazz Classics, 1979)
Do you know these musicians? Do you like any of them? Have you heard this album yet? If you answered 'yes' to the first two questions, and 'no' to the third, then fire-up Tidal now! This is a stunning, beautiful, well-recorded live date by this extraordinary cast of A+ performers. Almost regardless of musical taste, there isn’t anyone I have played this for who has not asked what it is. (If this lights your fire, pursue the SACD)

Available from Tidal

Joe Pass: Unforgettable (Pablo Records, 1998)
Unforgettable is a collection of solo acoustic guitar pieces by the one-and-only Joe Pass. The sound is intimate, unadorned, and impeccably beautiful. One of my most treasured experiences each year is an annual camping trip that my wife and I take with friends. Music is a big part of these trips (I usually haul two PlayDocks, ready to connect with pretty much any portable player or phone). Most of the time we are playing Allman Brothers, Little Feat, etc.—at volumes well exceeding normal campground rules(!). While I enjoy that music very much, one night as we settled down to dinner under the stars, I shifted gears. I put on Joe Pass’ Unforgettable. With the fire crackling at our feet, delicious hot grilled food on our plates, and this music mingling with the twilight breeze … we were very happy campers. And yes, it was unforgettable.

Available from Tidal

Carbon Leaf: Indian Summer (original edition) (Vanguard Records, 2004)
It was a beautiful summer day and my friend Deb called: "I’ve been listening in the car to this amazing new album that just made me want to put down all the windows and crank it up—every song!" I’d learned to trust her judgement completely on such matters, so I had to know, "what’s the album??" I asked. Carbon Leaf’s Indian Summer.

Since that day (now years ago), I’ve tried to never miss a local performance by this fabulous band, and I’ve bought a lot of their music. Full of catchy lyrics and beautiful musicianship, Indian Summer is a great soundtrack for a carefree drive on a summer day. Works well at the campsite too. When you check out their music, you’ll see that the band re-recorded this album, as Indian Summer Revisited. It seems this had to do with legal issues, and I support their move to have better control over their music. (They have now done the same thing with several of their classic albums.)

That said … (Carbon Leaf forgive me) I do prefer the sound of the original release. The good thing is, you can enjoy both albums on Tidal. If you like their music, don’t miss any chance to see them live. This band delivers full measure and then some.

Available from Tidal

Jakob Dinesen: Yasmin (Stunt Records, 2014)
Late in the evening, the last night of a wonderful vacation in Copenhagen … My wife and I were strolling back to our hotel when we passed something that stopped me in my tracks. A music store called JAZZCUP. Actually, this was much more than a music store. It was a café, a bar, an intimate performance space, a music store, a small family-run, jazz-dedicated music oasis.

Did I mention that the Copenhagen Jazz Festival was in session? An artist had just finished his set, and all hands were rearranging the seating and CD/LP-shelving that had been moved aside for the performance. I was sad to have just missed the set, and equally sad to have not discovered this little slice of jazz heaven earlier in our trip. The owner spied me inspecting the place. Though I expected him to express something along the lines of, "we’re closing for the night," he motioned me in. I looked at my wife … it was late, we had to get up early, and she knows very well that I never leave any music spot quickly. "Sure, let’s go in," she said.

My wife loves me. Moments later JAZZCUP’s owner/partner was apologizing for the discombobulated racks, helping me to navigate their substantial collection, offering me wine, introducing me to other family members, and waxing poetic about recording sessions that he’d overseen. It was too good to be true, and it got better. While I found many titles that I just had to purchase, he kept giving me others! Many of the gratis titles were samplers of his label’s excellent music (some of these are available on Tidal). I mentioned to him that I enjoyed Stan Getz, and in leading me to his abundant Getz offerings (some quite rare in my experience), he mentioned, "if you like Getz, you might like this one." He handed me a copy of Jakob Dinesen’s, Yasmin.

"Beautiful horn playing," he paused, "with strings … tastefully done." He seemed to sense that I might wrinkle my nose at the addition of the strings. He was partly right; the strings did give me pause. But I’m glad I trusted him. He was also right about the "tastefully done" part. This is a beautiful album, an album to put on when you need to de-stress. It has a warm, comforting, dreamy quality to it. The recording is excellent, as is the playing. You’ll have to judge whether jazz with strings is your thing, but I encourage you to give it a try. And if you’re ever in Copenhagen, don’t miss JAZZCUP!

Available from Tidal

The Very Best: Makes A King (Pias America, 2015)
Now and again you need to plunge into something fresh and vital and unlike the stuff you usually play all day long. That said, Makes A King isn’t so far afield from other things I listen to, but still … This refreshing, melodic and eminently listenable album is a complex weave of Afro-pop, electronica, local Malawian instrumentalists, and a choir(!).

How did I discover this? To be honest, I think I was just poking around in the world music selections on Tidal. What a discovery! I love this album. You can listen intently and hear all kinds of fascinating detail. You can put it on in the background and find yourself nicely propelled through whatever task is at hand. You can play it for your friends and … they just look at you strangely. Kidding (at least the better ones love it too). If you put it on and don’t like it at first, wait. Try to play the whole thing. This is a rich and varied album, and it reveals its pleasures with full and repeated listening.

Available from Tidal

Jerry Garcia & David Grisman: Garcia/Grisman (Acoustic Disc, 1991)
In the interest of full-disclose, I love Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead (we’ll get to them soon enough). As many of you know well, Jerry’s solo work was very different than Grateful Dead music (and many Deadheads were/are not particularly big fans of his solo work). This collaboration between Jerry and (mandolin master) David Grisman is an hour of pure acoustic bliss.

I’ll grant that Jerry’s voice is a bit of an acquired taste - but it’s worth acquiring. The instrumental interplay here? Virtuosic performances of the highest order. But what will really strike you is the superb immediacy of this recording! You will feel like these guys are playing in your living room. The sound quality is just awesome. If this music sweeps you away, it exists in no finer format than the Mobile Fidelity vinyl - get it.

Available from Tidal

Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks Vol. 18, 2/3/78 & (partial) 2/5/78 (Grateful Dead, 2000)
Ok, some of you know that you don’t like the Grateful Dead. That’s ok. I’m not going to try to change your mind; I hope you might like some of my other recommendations. For the rest of you … some know that you DO like the Grateful Dead, and some are willing to give ‘em a try.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve got here. The recordings are culled from a few shows in early February of 1978. Sound quality is quite good—especially for recordings that were not made with any intention of commercial release. Jerry’s guitar sound has a bit of (unintended) distortion in it, get over it. The band is on fire and just blazing on these recordings!

I’ve played this music from a palm-sized speaker on a beach blanket and had people say, "Wow, I didn’t think I liked the Dead, but this is really good!" (Oops, promised I wouldn’t try to change your mind, sorry.) If you like the Grateful Dead—or are willing to try—play Dick’s Picks vol. 18. The track-breaks with Tidal are a bit of a bummer, but maybe they’ll fix those one day. Just a bit of extra clarity—this is from the (older) *Dicks* Picks series, not the current *Dave’s* Picks series. And if you really like this music … there’s so much more. And if you really still don’t like this music, it’s still ok.

Available from Tidal

About Me
I’m a music junkie who finds that the more music I listen to, the more I like. This has created a monstrous appetite that feeds on itself. Tidal is a godsend, but I still feel the need to collect some physical media. My professional days were spent, for the most part, at an MIT software spin-off. Ultimately I returned to MIT, spending over a decade in corporate relations, primarily working with Japanese companies. Tower Records is still alive and well in Japan, and I spent many of my (few) free days in their flagship, seven-story Shibuya location. I’m now retired and spend time enjoying coffee on my back porch, wishing I had a job like Michael Lavorgna :-)

Share your Lovely Recordings with us!

dbtom2's picture

and i always enjoy and learn something new from them. This one is special. The writer's enthusiasm is contagious. I've bookmarked it one so I can come back to it over the next few weeks. Thanks for a great list of listens.

Everest Audio's picture

I too always look forward to 'Lovely Recordings' and for my personal tastes, this is the best one yet. I have them all as favourites now on Tidal and look forward to extended listening. Thanks Bob!

jond's picture

I've heard or own several of the selections here and spent most of my college career going to Dead shows so much appreciated! Not really a 78 guy, 68-71 is my wheelhouse but I will give it a listen. And I've queued of Jakob Dinesen next, we'll see if I can get past the strings, they also give me pause. Thanks for posting Bob!

eric4998's picture

Hi Bob,

Thank you very much for sharing!
I'm a big fan of music and especially relaxing, night time music. And your list contains a lot of records I don't know yet. :)
The way you describe your personal stories with these records is very nice to read and reminds me of my own stories with some records. Thanks again and enjoy the music!

xulio's picture

I've been living in Copenhagen for a year now and have managed to miss Jazzcup and all the good music it's offering! Thanks a million town for making me a happier Copenhagener!

Bob Karp's picture

Wow, living in Copenhagen ... I confess I totally loved the city! Please say hello to Soren at Jazzcup for me. And just ... enjoy!