One World (Putumayo): If you're looking for an introductory smorgasbord of world music, this CD is for you. Here, well-known artists join rising stars in a compilation of 15 singles from the likes of Johnny Clegg and Juluka, Gipsy Kings, Peter Gabriel with Youssou N'Dour, Bob Marley, and Capercaillie. The liner notes are full of information on the bands.
- Kirsten Conover
Ellis Paul - Carnival of Voices (Philo): For his third CD, Ellis Paul steps back from the pop crunch of his last recording to a simpler sound, focusing more on his uniquely breathy tenor, a voice capable of bringing a noisy club to an abrupt, attentive silence. Paul's matter-of-fact stories overflow his songs and spill from imagined beginnings to unspecified possibilities - while his characters resonate with a ring of truth, leading us to care about them whether they are heroes, junkies, or both. Highlights on this disc of mostly ballads include the jazzy "Self Portrait" and a gravity-defying "Weightless."
- Jef Scoville
Leonard Bernstein's New York (Nonesuch): In addition to his talents as a pianist and conductor, Leonard Bernstein was a prodigious composer with a special gift for show music, symphonic dances, and other forms blending popularity with theatricality. This lively disc focuses on pieces inspired by the city he loved most, with selections from "On the Town," "Wonderful Town," "Fancy Free," the immortal "West Side Story," and the Hollywood melodrama "On the Waterfront." Moods range from the perky humor of "Come Up to My Place," sung by Mandy Patinkin and Judy Blazer, to the poignancy of "Somewhere," in a lovely interpretation by Dawn Upshaw, with a rousing rendition of "New York, New York" to end the festivities. The other featured singers are Audra MacDonald and Richard Muenz, and all are accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke's under Eric Stern's energetic baton.
- David Sterritt