Top Picks: Esperanza Spalding's newest CD, Ken Burns's unseen films, 'City Island' out on DVD, and more recommendations
Esperanza Spalding's new album, 'Chamber Music Society,' three unseen Ken Burns documentaries on pbs.org, adult drama 'City Island' on DVD, and more.
All in the dysfunctional family
"City Island," a funny, surprisingly touching adult drama about a loving but deeply dysfunctional New York family, was a breakout hit at the 2009 TriBeCa Film festival. This tale about a corrections officer who aspires to be an actor and has a few skeletons in his closet, arrives on DVD Aug. 24. Julianna Margulies and Andy Garcia star in this portrait of a family that manages to discover that the truth may be scary but it's ultimately healthier than complicated and occasionally outlandish lies. (Rated PG-13)
Ken Burns's unseen films
Documentarian Ken Burns has explored baseball, jazz, the national parks, and the Civil War. Now "William Segal" and "In the Marketplace," two of his films never seen on national TV, will air in rotation on PBS during summer pledge drives (check local listings). Creative pioneer, artist, and philosopher William Segal explores the links between art and spirituality in these two films which, with a third, "Vezelay," make up the trilogy "Seeing, Searching, Being," for sale at pbs.org.
Beautiful noise from Arcade Fire
Vacuous suburban life has always been easy pickings for satire. But Arcade Fire's new album "The Suburbs" lays waste to the subject with a tornado of sound and a force of malevolent nature in lead singer Win Butler. Not too many rock groups include glockenspiel, French horn, and hurdy-gurdy in their line-up, but it's all part of what makes Arcade Fire sound unique. It's a beautiful noise.
Tiny concerts at NPR
It's hard to imagine a more intimate musical venue than NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Ageless soul-singer Mavis Staples, shape-shifting "Weird Al" Yankovic, and reggae legend Jimmy Cliff are among the guests who perform at "All Things Considered" host Bob Boilen's tiny desk. Watch them online at NPR.org, or subscribe to the Tiny Desk Concerts podcast.
Nat King Cole goes Latin
Cuban singer Issac Delgado, the Frank Sinatra of salsa, turned Nat King Cole's classic ballads into supermellow Latin versions in "L-O-V-E" (Sony Classical, $11.98). He has help from Freddy Cole, Nat's brother, who sings "Quizás, Quizás, Quizás" ("Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps"). Eight of the 12 hits are from three albums that Nat King Cole himself recorded in Spanish between 1958 and '62; the other four Delgado translated and reinterpreted in Spanish.
Music that defies a category
Twenty-four-year-old singer/bass player Esperanza Spalding is the darling of the jazz world. Her good looks and prodigious talent have earned her scores of accolades. Her new album, "Chamber Music Society," should win her new admirers from far beyond jazz. It is a brave and ambitious work, combining her composing, singing, and playing with a muscular string quartet and a sizzling jazz rhythm section. The result is a stirring, category-defying evolution of music.