Thanksgiving might be over but giving thanks is always in season.
This is Taiwanese singer Christine Fan’s new album after three years and her first since giving birth to twins in January last year. On the track Thanksgiving, she sings: “Every time you hear this song/That’s me telling you thanks/For all that you have given/What I can’t ever return, the happiest debt.”
Presumably with her hands full with child-raising, Fan, who tied the knot with actor-host Blackie Chen in 2011, leaves the songwriting to others this time around, roping in the likes of William Wei, Lala Hsu and David Ke.
A Long Long Time From Now is a poignant imagining of what a first love might feel like years down the road. The Best Arrangement, a duet with Malaysian balladeer Fish Leong, is in the tradition of her previous paeans to female friendships such as One Is Like Summer, One Is Like Fall.
On the album closer Blow Wind Blow, darkness has its silver lining: “Who turned out the lights and dimmed the sky/Time turns into a black negative/Stars start to slowly appear.”
FANFAN’S TIME TO GIVE THANKS
Fan’s gently soothing pipes imbue each song with a comforting warmth, even when the sentiment is tinged with sadness. And that is something to be thankful for.
Lyricist Johnny Mercer, who was born to a wealthy family in Georgia, racked up an impressive discography in a writing career that spanned almost 40 years, from the 1930s to the 1960s.
TOO MARVELLOUS: THE SONGS OF JOHNNY MERCER
Jaimee Paul with the Mason Embry Trio
Green Hill Music
From sunnily perky Tin Pan Alley tunes such as Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive to silky Burt Bacharach-esque offerings like Days Of Wine And Roses, Mercer's lyrics move easily from sophisticated charm to easy listening.
Singer Jaimee Paul, born in southern Illinois, matches his southern breeziness with gently coasting delivery that makes for very pretty listening. Backing her up solidly are pianist Mason Embry, bassist Michael Rinne and drummer Joshua Hunt. The trio's playing is determinedly non- showy, conjuring a late-night conversational feel that suits Paul's sleepy, velvety alto voice.
She has been recording steadily since her debut in 2009 and her warm timbre and low-key delivery suit the relatively mainstream stable maintained by Green Hill Music. While her albums may not offer ground-breaking stuff, she is dependably pleasant, with a thoughtful lyric delivery that is appealing without being boring.
She can do bluesy drawls, as the cheeky strut of the verse introduction to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive proves, and one wishes she would cut loose a little more.
For those who want their jazz more easily digestible, her latest album fits the bill.
Ong Sor Fern
Here are two cello sonatas written by composers whose main instrument was the piano and both are coincidentally in the key of G Minor.
RACHMANINOV & CHOPIN CELLO SONATAS
Alisa Weilerstein, cello
Inon Barnatan, piano
Decca 478 8416
Rachmaninov's sonata (composed in 1901) is the better known, written at around the same time as his Second Piano Concerto and Second Suite for two pianos, which share a wealth of melody and luscious harmonies. Chopin's sonata (1847) was his last published work, filled with mellowness and a rich vein of lyricism. Both are in four movements, including achingly beautiful slow movements that have become hits in their own right.
American cellist Alisa Weilerstein coaxes a luxuriant and gorgeous tone, complemented by Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan's virtuosic yet sensitive partnership. The fill-ups are also well-chosen.
Rachmaninov's mellifluous Vocalise is soulfully rendered. A transcription by Auguste Franchomme (Chopin's close friend and favourite cellist) of Etude In C Sharp Minor (Op. 25 No. 7), which sometimes carries the nickname "Cello", seems like a natural choice.
Finally, Chopin's early Introduction & Polonaise Brillante (Op. 3) closes the recital in a blaze of fireworks.
Chang Tou Liang
The 1920s ushered in a new era of music, when European composers readily embraced the influence of music from the New World, namely African-American jazz.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin
Huw Watkins, piano
Champs Hill 059
This interesting anthology by young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen explores both sides of the Atlantic - American composers making their mark in this home-grown musical language and French composers intoxicated by the blues and syncopated rhythms.
The two main works are the violin sonatas of Francis Poulenc (1943) and Maurice Ravel (1927). Poulenc's bittersweet idiom was, in this instance, inspired by the murder of poet Federico Garcia Lorca in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, while Ravel's includes toe-tapping blues as its slow movement.
The Americans are represented by Charles Ives and George Gershwin. Ives' Decoration Day is a movement from his Holidays Symphony, in which distant memories of old band tunes are reheard through the prism of time.
Six popular songs from Gershwin's Afro-American folk opera Porgy And Bess benefit from Jascha Heifetz's slick arrangements. The rarity is Heifetz's last transcription, a six-minute distillation of tunes from An American In Paris (and completed by his Indonesia-born assistant Ayke Agus), which seems all too short.
The performances here are marked by an infectious vitality and deserve repeated listening.
Chang Tou Liang