John Fleming's new CD picks

By JOHN FLEMING Times Performing Arts Critic
Published May 27, 2007

Stephen Montague

Album: Southern Lament NMC

In stores: Now

Why we care: Stephen Montague is a St. Petersburg-reared composer who settled in England, where he pursues all manner of musical projects, such as his concerto for eight motorcycles, brass, percussion and piano. That's right, a concerto for motorcycles, premiered at the 2007 UK Superbike Championships. But Montague is more than a musical prankster. Southern Lament is a collection of serious (well, mostly) piano music, played by Philip Mead.

Why we like it: The haunting title piece plays off the composer's upbringing in Florida in the 1950s and '60s by reworking folk tunes John Henry and Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen. Paramell has great hard-driving piano. For Merce C at the Barbican is a tribute to choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Reminds us of: John Cage

Download these: After Ives, Paramell

Grade: A

MOB (Musicians Out of the Box)

Album: Music Tales (MOB)

In stores: Now

Why we care: The Sarasota string quartet MOB - Sean O'Neil, violin; Roxane Frangie-Solowey, violin; Nathan Frantz, viola; Sasha von Dassow, cello - combines children's stories with musical excerpts, such as The Three Little Pigs and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The musicianship is immaculate, and the narratives by Asolo Repertory Theatre actors Alix McEachern Jones and Paul Molnar can be very involving, even for adult listeners.

Why we like it: Several of the pairings are delightfully ingenious, such as The Prince & the Mermaid with music of William Grant Still. There's a premiere by Florida composer James M. Stephenson, whose engaging music was inspired by The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Reminds us of: Bedtime stories with a string quartet

Download this: Ferdinand the Bull

Grade: A-

David Gluck and Tom Brantley

Album: Obsessed with Treasure (Bear Claw)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Tom Brantley, a trombonist par excellence who teaches at the University of South Florida, teams with composer and percussionist David Gluck of the music faculty at SUNY-Purchase in an exhilarating mix of jazz and pop, rock and classical. In 12 superbly engineered tracks, the duo and a host of guest artists range from salsa (Obsessed with Treasure) to bossa nova (Painted Mermaid) to an infectious performance of rhythm and blues icon Johnny Otis' Cold Shot.

Why we like it: You could call the Gluck-Brantley style surrealistic (after their Salvador Dali-inspired work Lobster Telephone) or just plain soulful, but whatever their sound is, it has the bracing slap of complete originality.

Reminds us of: Frank Zappa

Download these: Cold Shot, Painted Mermaid

Grade: A

Tom Brantley and the group Confluences play at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tampa Museum of Art.

McCormick Percussion Ensemble

Album: Marimba Concerti (Capstone)

In stores: Now

Why we care: The marimba - a xylophonelike instrument consisting of wooden bars, struck by mallets - is a favorite of contemporary composers. Robert McCormick and his players from the University of South Florida provide a good survey of what is being written nowadays for marimba and percussion orchestra, including works by USF professors Paul Reller and Chihchun Chi-sun Lee.

Why we like it: Emory Blake and Grant Beiner are excellent soloists in a concertino by Jan Van Landeghem. Ryan Wilson shines in Lee's three-movement work that builds from a place of delicate stillness to rhythmic funk. The Creation by Cayenna Rosa Ponchione is 14 minutes of cosmic meditation.

Reminds us of: Cool jazz meets Chinese opera

Download this: The Albados Song

Grade: B+

John Fleming can be reached at (727) 893-8716 or fleming@sptimes.com.