Rodion Shchedrin: “Carmen-Suite,” after Bizet

 

BIS Carmen

Rodion Shchedrin: Carmen-Suite for strings and 47 percussion instruments, after Bizet (written 1967)
CD BIS 382 (recorded 1987)
(No high-resolution download available, apparently.)

Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Howard Faberman, conductor; Robert von Bahr, producer; Siegbert Ernst, engineer.

Talk about a Guilty Pleasure. An email from Jason McCrary of Reference Audio (one of my Esperanto Audio dealers) finally made me sit down and listen all the way through Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen-Suite, from the 1967 Alberto Alonso ballet. An LP-loving (and vacuum-tube-loving) ‎customer had turned Jason on to the EMI LP with Gennady Rozhdestvensky and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. The original of that LP is out of print. According to the LP-sales database Popsike, it has fetched between $21 and $142 used, with a median of $48, and a mean of $54. There is (or was) a 180-gram LP reissue (at least in Germany and Switzerland).

The guilty-pleasure aspects of Shchedrin’s score are first the orchestration—strings only, plus four percussionists playing a total of 47 different percussion instruments (to give that word a very wide scope)—while the other guilty pleasure is the affectionate cheekiness of Shchedrin’s musical tamperings. Continue Reading →

Jane Monheit: “Taking a Chance on Love”

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Jane Monheit: Taking a Chance on Love
Recorded at Avatar Studios, NYC, March-May 2004; released on CD September 2004.
CD Sony Classical SK 92495
(No high-resolution download found.)

Jane Monheit, vocals; Michael Kanan, piano; Orlando Le Fleming, bass; Rick Montalbano, drums; Miles Okazaki, guitar; various guests; Alan Broadbent, arranger and conductor; Peter Asher and Al Schmitt, producers; Al Schmitt, engineer.

“Great American Songbook” singer Jane Monheit’s début studio album for Sony Classical Taking a Chance on Love is in many ways the opposite bookend to Harry Connick, Jr.’s We Are In Love, which I wrote about here. After all, both titles use the “L” word… .

However, the important difference is that Harry Connick’s voice is of the “boy next door” variety, whereas Jane Monheit’s voice is of the “girl next door” variety, but only if you live next door to the Manhattan School of Music. Monheit’s own website is here; her Wiki is here.

Sound bytes, a YouTube, and more, on the continuation page. Continue Reading →

Bob Ludwig on Shostakovich and Beethoven

 

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(Photo © Vincent Dixon, courtesy of Gateway Mastering.)

A few postings back, I suggested that, consciously or otherwise, Dmitri Shostakovich modeled the brief but arresting four-note musical motto that begins the Passacaglia theme of the third movement of his violin concerto on Beethoven’s famous four-note beginning of the first movement of his Fifth Symphony.

In other words, instead of Beethoven’s

da-da-da DAAH

Shostakovich opens with

DAAH, da DA-DA.

That was in the context of a Vault-Treasure Tuesday feature, David Oistrakh’s première studio recording of 1956.

I sent the link to Bob Ludwig, and Bob sent back a fascinating response. A bit about Bob, and then his important contribution to the conversation, are after the jump. Continue Reading →

Harry Connick, Jr: “We Are In Love”

Connick Scan

Harry Connick, Jr: We Are In Love
Recorded at Evergreen Radford Studio, North Hollywood, California in March, 1990 and RCA Studio B, New York, in April and May, 1990; released on CD and analog cassette 1990, on MiniDisc circa 1992, and on non-compatible single-layer stereo SACD (apparently from 44.1kHz PCM sources) 2000.
CD Columbia CK 46146

Harry Connick Jr., piano, vocals; Branford Marsalis, tenor and soprano saxophones; Russell Malone, guitar; Benjamin Jonah Wolfe, bass; Shannon Powell, drums; Harry Connick Jr., Marc Shaiman, George Butler, Bobby Colomby, producers; recorded and mixed by Joel Moss.

Talk about an unlikely success. In 1990, American actor, singer, pianist, and composer Harry Connick, Jr. released as anachronistic an album as anyone could imagine—male vocals, most tracks with big-band-style orchestral accompaniment. Connick wrote most of the songs, but there were also standards including “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and Cole Porter’s “It’s Alright With Me.” We Are In Love sold two million copies in its first year, and Connick picked up the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance—Male.

Connick’s voice is of the “Boy Next Door” variety, but he makes the most of it; and the recording job is stunningly good. Thanks to the advocacy of MSB Digital’s Vince Galbo, Connick’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (with excellent contributions from Branford Marsalis on tenor saxophone and Benjamin Jonah Wolfe on bass, who are the only musicians on the track) has become a favorite hi-fi-show demo track. Continue Reading →

Michael Franks: “Sleeping Gypsy”

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Michael Franks: Sleeping Gypsy
Recorded at Capitol Records, Hollywood, and in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, August-November 1976; released on LP 1977, CD 1990; various digital remasterings, including an SHM-CD for the Japanese Domestic Market (2012).

Michael Franks, vocals, banjo, guitar, mandolin; Joe Sample, João Donato, piano; Wilton Felder, bass; Larry Carlton, Hélio Delmiro, guitar; John Guerin, João Palma, Larry Bunker, drums; Michael Brecker, tenor saxophone; David Sanborn, alto saxophone; Ray Armando, percussion; Claus Ogerman, arranger and conductor; Tommy LiPuma, producer, Al Schmitt, engineer.

Yacht Rock? Or perhaps more like, “Jetliner to Brazil” Rock… .

If the soundworld of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark or that of Steely Dan’s Aja appeals to you, I think you will enjoy Michael Franks’ third studio album, Sleeping Gypsy. Sleeping Gypsy has a substantial overlap in session personnel with Court and Spark, and a partial overlap with Aja.

But over and above the sonic contributions of the finest of Los Angeles’ 1970s on-call musicians, what Sleeping Gypsy shares with its far better known contemporaries is literate and literary songwriting, and an adult perspective.

Sound samples and more after the jump. Continue Reading →

David Oistrakh: Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 (1956)

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David Oistrakh: Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 (1956)
Recorded January 2, 1956, Carnegie Hall, New York City
(with Cello Concerto No. 1)
CD Sony Classical
Masterworks Heritage “Mono Era” Catalog No. 63327 (1998)
(No high-resolution download available, apparently.)

David Oistrakh, violin; the New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor.
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, conductor.

Dmitri Shostakovich is something of a polarizing figure. The greatness of his music is not universally acknowledged. The nay-sayers suggest that the difficult circumstances of his life under Stalin (who fancied himself a music critic, and who published concert reviews under a pseudonym) cause people to disregard the disjointed weirdness of much of Shostakovich’s output.

Liner-note writer David Fanning, writing about the late string quartets, characterized one of Dmitri Shostakovich’s characteristic modes of expression as “anxious circling and a kind of crippled polka . . . .” But that is only one of Shostakovich’s modes of expression. There also can be found a kind of selfless monumentality; a humane nobility; and a reverence for the history of musical expression from Orthodox Chant to Mozart.

Those other, non-weird, features of Shostakovich’s art I think were best expressed in his First Violin Concerto and in its première commercial recording in New York in 1956 by David Oistrakh, who was touring America during a brief warming in the Cold War.

Autodidact culture-vulture Marilyn Monroe was in the audience for Oistrakh’s Carnegie Hall recital début in late 1955. Shortly thereafter, Oistrakh played the US première of Shostakovich’s violin concerto with the New York Philharmonic, and within days, they recorded it. I think that recording, in very acceptable monophonic sound, is one of the most important recordings of the 20th century.

More, the sound bytes, and a YouTube after the jump. Continue Reading →

Van Morrison: “Moondance” Deluxe Edition

Moondance (Deluxe Edition)

Van Morrison: Moondance Deluxe Edition
Recorded August to December 1969, released January 1970; remastered 2013.
HD Tracks download HX603497907663
8-CD/1 Blu-ray boxed set, Warner Bros. Records R2 53656

Van Morrison, vocals, guitar, rhythm guitar, tambourine, harmonica, producer; John Klingberg, bass; Gary Mallaber, drums, vibraphone; Guy Masson, conga; John Platania, guitar, rhythm guitar; Jef Labes, organ, piano, clavinet; Jack Schroer, alto and soprano saxophones; Collin Tilton, flute, tenor saxophone; Judy Clay, Emily Houston, Jackie Verdell, backing vocals (tracks 3 and 8).

Moondance was George Ivan “Van” Morrison’s third studio album. His previous ones having been the somewhat inscrutable Astral Weeks and the earlier, somewhat slapdash Blowin’ Your Mind. The latter was assembled without Morrison’s cooperation (or knowledge) from takes originally intended to be released as 45-rpm singles.

Blowin’ Your Mind was an effort to capitalize upon the success of Morrison’s Irish rock band “Them.” Them’s memorable one hit of wonder was “Gloria.” An indication of Them’s brief but major eminence was that when them had a residency at Los Angeles’ Whisky a Go Go in 1966, their opening act was: The Doors. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Morrison Jim was hugely impressed by Morrison Van’s poetry and by his stage presence. On the last night of the gig, the two bands jammed on “Gloria.” Not shabby.

Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

“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.

Continue Reading →

Frank Sinatra: Where Are You?

MFSL-Frank_Sinatra_WhereAreYou

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.

Continue Reading →