Blossom Dearie: Verve “Jazz Masters” 51

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Blossom Dearie: Verve Jazz Masters 51
CD Verve 529 906-2

Blossom Dearie, piano, voice; Ray Brown, bass; Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, guitar; Jo Jones, drums; others. Recorded 1955–60; remastered 1996.

“Blossom Dearie” (full name Blossom Margrete Dearie) certainly sounds like a stage name. However, “Dearie” is an old Scottish name, also spelled “Deery” and “Deary.”

As for her given names, she was born in April, and one story is that the pear trees in the area around her home in rural New York were in blossom, and a neighbor brought blossoms to the Dearie home on the day of her birth… . I suspect “Margrete” was chosen by her mother, who either was Norwegian, or was of Norwegian ancestry.

That said, perhaps the stage-name thing (as well as her gamine cuteness, and her little-girl voice) made people underestimate Dearie’s musical intelligence.

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Nathaniel Rosen Plays Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo Variations”

One of the most popular works for cello and orchestra is universally known as Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations (Op. 33, of 1877). But what that name makes up for in concision, it somewhat lacks in clarity, in that it is the theme that is Rococo, and not the variations… . The formal name is usually rendered in English as Variations on a Rococo Theme, but the BSO’s broadcast announcer here calls it the Variations on a Graceful Tune.

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George Washington Carver’s List of Eight Cardinal Virtues

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Dear Friends,

I intend to use my blog as a way of sharing my love of music and the other arts, and also sharing my love of audio engineering and of home hi-fi equipment. I am not going to turn my blog into a political platform.

That said, while doing other research, I ran across a List of Eight Cardinal Virtues composed by plant scientist George Washington Carver (c. 1860—5 January 1943). Here they are.

  1.  Be clean both inside and out.
  1.  Neither look up to the rich, nor down on the poor.
  1.  Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  1.  Win without bragging.
  1.  Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
  1.  Be too brave to lie.
  1.  Be too generous to cheat.
  1.  Take your share of the world, and let others take theirs.

The relevance to today’s headlines should be painfully obvious.

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Alan Feinberg, pianist: “Fugue State”

Fugue State cover download Amazon

Alan Feinberg is one of those increasingly rare classical pianists who have managed to create an international career without the springboard of a well-publicized competition win. (No knock on competition winners who play like artists—see here. )

Alan Feinberg came to my attention some years back when he recorded a series of four CDs for Argo, one of which included a spellbinding performance of a Fauré “Après un Rêve” transcription by Percy Grainger. Feinberg’s approach was larger than life. Or, perhaps it was more that Grainger’s “transcription” left Fauré’s pensive little art song in the dust of a major construction project.

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Julie London – “Fly Me To The Moon” (1964)

The backstory to Julie London’s career is a little ways down the page, under Time for Love. The above video is from a 1964 Japanese television special. It’s of particular interest because many live films and videos of Julie London have substandard audio, which feeds into the canard that she had a weak voice. Here she sounds enviably punchy.

Bart Howard’s song of 1954, originally titled “In Other Words,” was his response to the request of a song publisher that he write less complicated songs. Howard idolized Cole Porter, but, the 1950s were not the 1920s; simpler (and briefer) was better. Frank Sinatra included “Fly Me to the Moon” on his 1964 album It Might as Well Be Swing, accompanied by Count Basie, which definitely put the song over the top as a “standard.” All told, “Fly Me to the Moon” has been covered on approximately 300 recordings.

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“Time for Love: The Best of Julie London”

time for love CD cover

Julie London: Time for Love: The Best of Julie London
CD Rhino R2 70737

Julie London, vocals; Barney Kessel, guitar; Ray Leatherwood, bass; others. Recorded 1955–67; remastered 1991.

The first installment in the “Vault-Treasure Tuesdays” feature was Clifford Brown With Strings, from 1956. The second was Frank Sinatra’s Where Are You?, from 1957. That’s one instrumental recording and one jazz-inflected male pop vocalist. So now, here’s a jazz-inflected female pop vocalist.

If you asked most people today to name the most popular female vocalist of 1955, 1956, or 1957, many would guess Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, or Rosemary Clooney. However, according to Billboard magazine, for all three years it was Julie London. Julie London’s singing career was so unlikely that it could have been a Hollywood movie script of the same era.

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Respighi “Brazilian Impressions,” Liège Royal Philharmonic, John Neschling

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Respighi Impressioni brasiliane, La Boutique fantasque
Liège Royal Philharmonic, John Neschling, conductor
BIS SACD 2050

I raved about this SACD/CD in my next-to-last column for Stereophile magazine. Having since then heard it played back on a variety of stereo systems, my continued exposure to it has only increased my respect.

I have not yet heard Andris Nelsons’ and the Boston Symphony’s Grammy-winning Shostakovich 10th symphony, which, perhaps, might be even better. But as of right now, the Liège Royal Philharmonic’s Respighi Brazilian Impressions on BIS is the best new orchestral recording (not only in terms of recording quality, but also in performance) I have heard in years. Even if you rarely listen to classical music, this recording is well worth acquiring as material that shows off what a great stereo system can sound like.

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WDR Big Band: “Just Friends”

WDR Big Band

(Note: The photo above is not from the music video.)

WDR Big Band: “Just Friends”

Here’s an exuberant big-band video (from the year 2000) showcasing the WDR Big Band in Bill Holman’s unique arrangement of the “Great American Songbook” number “Just Friends.”

Written by Klenner and Lewis in 1931, “Just Friends” is a pensive, poignant ballad about lovers who have drifted apart. They are now “Just Friends.” (Two friends… but one broken heart.)

“Just Friends” is doubtless most often remembered as the blistering opener to Charlie Parker With Strings. Parker’s astonishing introduction nests details within details—music as Mandelbrotian fractal. Famous vocal versions include those by Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, and Tony Bennett.

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A feisty little stereo amplifier! (Steinway & Sons office systems, Part II)

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Parasound’s Zamp v.3 stereo amplifier

One of my favorite lines from the original Star Trek TV series (and please, nobody forget that Alexander Courage’s theme music borrowed heavily from Mahler’s symphonies 1 and 7) was something like:

I bet five Quatloos on the feisty newcomer!

Well, Parasound’s Zamp v.3 is hardly a newcomer, but, it’s very feisty! And, at a US Suggested Retail Price of $349, it is a stellar bargain.

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Frank Sinatra: Where Are You?

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Frank Sinatra: Where Are You?
With Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra
SACD/CD Mobile Fidelity Original Master Recordings 2109 / Monaural
Originally released on Capitol Records, 1957

The first “Vault-Treasure Tuesdays” feature was Clifford Brown With Strings, from 1956. Sticking to that same part of the century, here we have, from 1957, Frank Sinatra’s Where Are You?, in a truly remarkable monophonic remastering by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs.

The Haiku version is: this album of “weepies” is one of Sinatra’s best. Where Are You? was Sinatra’s first album with Gordon Jenkins as arranger and conductor. They struck the perfect emotional balance, avoiding both bleak despair and superficial hipness. And Where Are You?‘s narrative arc makes it the perfect bookend for Clifford Brown With Strings.

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