B'in Music International
What is 10,000 hours? Mathematically, it is just shy of 417 days - a little more than a year.
As the title of Taiwanese trio Cosmos People's album, it suggests a contemplation on the passage of time, an intrinsic part of the cycle of life. On the title track, lead vocalist Hsiao Yu wonders: "How much time does it take for flat ground to form a mountain/How much time does it take for the coast to build a sandy beach."
The idea of measurement is then extended to the emotional realm: "How does a love song measure the romance of when we first met."
Elsewhere, the band wrestle with questions of identity and emotional apathy.
Against an upbeat, rousing tune, they sing of becoming numb on Rudderless: "I don't feel anything towards wonderful things/When my heart is in pain, it's hard to bear, the higher the expectations the greater the fall."
The sentiments are sometimes dire, but the music remains engaging, from the whistling at the start of And You? to the brassy accents of Offline Friends; from the disco-tinged 15 Seconds Of Fame to the spare Minnan ballad Rainy Day.
Four albums on, Cosmos People are no longer playing dress-up as spacemen or detectives, even as they continue to play around with musical genres. This is the sound of a band growing up.
Poom Prommachart, Piano
Champs Hill 104
From the Land of Smiles comes this ultra-serious recital programme by young Thai pianist Poom Prommachart.
He studied in Singapore's Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and London's Royal College of Music and has won top prizes at international competitions in his native Thailand, Serbia and England.
The meat comes in two major works celebrating the theme and variations' form. Liszt's Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen is a formal edifice built upon an austere motif from the Bach cantata of the same title and closes in a blaze of major key fireworks.
The other is Nikolai Medtner's Second Improvisation Op. 47, a half-hour's meditation on The Song Of The Water-Nymph with 15 variations that run the full gamut of a pianist's technical armamentarium. There are not many recordings of it and Poom's well thought out and paced account ranks high along with the best of them, including Earl Wild and Hamish Milne's famous readings.
The fill-ups are Scriabin's Ninth Sonata (known as the Black Mass), with its murky necromancy balanced by Rachmaninov's brilliant transcription of Fritz Kreisler's Liebesfreud.
This is an impressive debut CD and an excellent calling card for a rising musician with a lot to say.
Chang Tou Liang
SHOSTAKOVICH PIANO CONCERTOS
Andrei Korobeinikov, Piano Lahti Symphony /Okko Kamu Mirare 155
The two piano concertos of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) are without doubt the lightest of his six concertos and are also among his most popular works.
The First Concerto In C Minor (Op. 35) is unusually scored with solo trumpet and strings, a double comedy act with solo instruments cocking a snook at the classical conventions of Beethoven and Haydn while channelling popular cabaret and dancehall music.
Its rip-roaring finale could easily be the soundtrack of a 1920s silent movie starring the Keystone Cops. It is best heard played with a poker-face and tongue firmly in cheek.
The Second Concerto In F Major (Op. 102) was composed for his teenaged son Maxim and, for once, Shostakovich's stock-in-trade sarcasm and irony are held at bay until the finale's spoof on Hanon's laborious finger exercises.
Both enjoyable concertos get sparkling performances by Russian pianist Andrei Korobeinikov and Singapore Symphony Orchestra principal guest conductor Okko Kamu's Finnish orchestra. In between the concertos is a kaleidoscopic reading of Shostakovich's
24 Preludes (Op. 34), which opens with a brief salute to Bach before going its own iconoclastic path, alternating droll and uproarious numbers in a way only he knows how.
Here, Korobeinikov is his own master and this nuanced reading ranks among the best in the catalogue.
Chang Tou Liang
LIVE IN CUBA
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis/Blue Engine Records
This two-album is, in a word, cooking.
Recorded live at the Mella Theater in Cuba in 2010, the album is a fabulous showcase for the amazing big band juggernaut that is the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, and an auspicious launch for Blue Engine Records, the band's new collaborative label with Sony Music.
The Orchestra, which played three sold-out nights in Cuba, explores jazz's long love affair with Latin rhythms in its programme.
The results are simply delicious - ranging from balmy seduction in Como Fue to hard swing in Braggin' In Brass to comic effects in Baa Baa Black Sheep.
Each of these numbers is a bright, polished showcase of the orchestra's diverse talents, individually accomplished musicians who can pull off both startling solos and disciplined bandwork.
Como Fue opens with an unexpectedly jivey percussive intro with piano and tapped drum rims, with snazzy brass, before a bowed cello interrupts to set the ballad tone and guest vocalist Bobby Carcasse, sounding like a cross between Billy Eckstine and Ibrahim Ferrer, joins in.
The brass section, led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, gets to run riot in Braggin' In Brass and Baa Baa Black Sheep.
The former, a Duke Ellington classic, is a showcase of the brass section's nimble fingers, as it tears through notes in perfectly synchronised bebop time.
Baa Baa Black Sheep lets the musicians indulge in their playfulness as it literally opens with the brass imitating the baa-ing of a herd of sheep before the serious music-making kicks in.
This is an album to put on repeat mode - for its sheer joy in the diversity of the genre, for the dazzling skills of the players, for just darned good music.
Ong Sor Fern