Top Picks: Clairy Browne & The Bangin' Rackettes' debut album, Frying Pan News' poetry initiative, and more

Bobby McFerrin records an album of African-American spirituals, StarMap 3D identifies constellations, and more.

Carol Friedman/Sony Music Entertainment
Bobby McFerrin
Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes 'Baby Caught the Bus'
Joshua Redman’s Walking Shadows

Sax appeal

There’s something about the breathy, midtone register of a saxophone perfectly situated between soaring strains of violins and the deep rumble of the cello. That’s why jazz sax masters have been cutting albums with strings for dec­ades. Now it’s tenor man Joshua Redman’s turn. Walking Shadows features jazz stalwarts Brad Mehldau on piano and Brian Blade on drums, but it’s the string arrangements and Redman’s eclectic song choices that make this a real gem. Standouts are a witty take on the Beatles’  “Let it Be” and a shimmering version of Kern and Hammerstein’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.”

Powerful poetry

Poetry lovers know the power of the simplest verse. Now the folks at the California-based website Frying Pan News hope to prove that power to politicians with a new weekly project, “Words of Fire.” Five Los Angeles poets will tell the story of the city’s true soul hoping it will get city leaders to understand the town in a new way.  Check it out at

McFerrin spirituals

Bobby McFerrin has charmed fans for decades with his own distinctive musical stylings. Now he brings his whimsical, deceptively light approach to African-American spirituals. Ranging from such well-known tunes as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” to some rarely heard standards, the songs are part of his family legacy. (His father, renowned Met baritone singer Robert McFerrin, recorded them on “Deep River” in 1957.) Rhythmic and heart-warming, Spirityouall is out on Sony Masterworks.

Sacred moments

Sacred will be a global crowdsourced documentary depicting one year of spiritual and religious life. Beginning on June 21, WNET New York Public Media invites the public around the world to contribute footage that answers the question, “What is sacred to you?” Footage shot during the 365-day filming period and contributed via the film’s website ( will be edited together into a mosaic portrait of spiritual and religious life on Earth.

Star light, star bright

StarMap 3D will help guide you across the night sky. The compass feature enables a map that shows all of the stars and constellations right above you, complete with 3-D illustrations. With enough details to entertain the amateur astronomer, and interesting displays for children, this app is great for summer stargazing. (iPad and iPhone compatible, $2.99)

Doo-wop remade

Baby Caught the Bus, from Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes, is one of those lovely finds – a first album by an inspired group that bursts on the music scene as a joyful and surprise hit. The Australian group, fronted by Browne with a powerful, bluesy presence, delivers a youthful take on old-time rhythm and blues, jazz, and doo-wop. The single “Love Letter” has been a chart topper on radio stations across the spectrum and is only one song on an album with cross-generational appeal.

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