Movie Music

There are lots of box sets of movie tunes, but Cinema, by the Café Accordion Orchestra, fronted by frequent Prairie Home Companion accordionist Dan Newton, has gone beyond mere compilation to rewrite film-song history. The five multi-instrumentalists, and guest electric sitarist, have the range of, well, an orchestra, even singing in four languages (five if you count a Chico Marx impression). Cinema is inconsistent vocally but smartly programmed, front-loaded with Henry Mancini chestnuts and “Fit as a Fiddle” from Singin’ in the Rain. A long spy-movie medley serves as an intermission between the nostalgic first half and modern cuts from Chocolat, Amelie, and Kill Bill: Volume 2. The group is sublime on “Moon River,” ridiculous on the Marx Brothers’ “Everyone Says I Love You,” and astonishing in an unlikely medley of Dick Dale’s Pulp Fiction surf riffs and the Exodus theme. Cinema is perfect for driving or the drive-in—a joyful reintroduction to a peerless local group and some bygone gems. And certainly an affair to remember. -JIM MEYER

Irv Williams/Peter Schimke Duo

Though not a seasonal album, this collection of peaceful duets by caramel-smooth tenor saxophonist Irv Williams and pianist Peter Schimke are ideal for fire-lit date nights. The two share original numbers and two standards before Schimke’s own piece, “The Vow,” gradually brings the set to an even deeper serenity. When the snow melts, stash this disc in the glove box; “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and Williams’s “Grand Avenue Stroll” will make this a keeper for all year, and years to come. —JIM MEYER


Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Schubert Symphonies No. 4 and 8

Listening to the SPCO’s first CD on its own label, it’s easy to see why the country’s only full-time professional chamber orchestra is one of the most frequently recorded ensembles in America, with 46 discs in 24 years. These gorgeously evocative Schubert symphonies manage to sound both engagingly intimate in the quieter sections and richer in others than the numbers (35 musicians) would suggest. Good things do come in small packages. —TIM GIHRING