The Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1940 may not have been as popular with the general public as that of Glenn Miller, but they were one of the great big bands of all time. The best way to acquire their music is to get all of the alternate takes, which are available through RCA/Bluebird, but the Classics series has done a fine job of reissuing all of the master takes. This particular disc has a small-group session apiece led by altoist Johnny Hodges and cornetist Rex Stewart along with nine songs from the big band. Among the gems are "In a Mellotone," "Five O'Clock Whistle," "Warm Valley" (heard twice), "Daydream," and "Linger Awhile." In addition, the four classic Jimmy Blanton-Duke Ellington bass-piano duets (which include "Pitter Panther Patter" and "Mr. J.B. Blues") are included and find Blanton sounding quite futuristic, almost like Charles Mingus 15 years later.
It's hard to believe this CD was done with only a violin, viola da gama and harpsichord. This is polyphonic music at its finest. It does tribute to Buxtehude, who preceded Bach. The ensemble is perfect - the instruments complement each other. When they go from slow to fast, it is remarkable to hear the contrast. These are expert musicians with a complete mastery of their instruments. They use loud-soft as easily as any masters of the Baroque. The result is joyous, lively and entertaining.
Volume seven in the Classics Benny Goodman chronology presents 22 sides recorded for the Victor label in Hollywood during August 1936 and in New York during October and November of that year. Three big band performances open this compilation; the first two used arrangements written by Fletcher Henderson. Next come four titles excellently rendered by the Benny Goodman trio and quartet with Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, who sings wonderfully on "Exactly Like You" and the "Vibraphone Blues"…
Anticipating the ultimate judgements of posterity can be a risky business, and yet in the case of Shostakovich concertos I'll risk putting my neck on the line by proclaiming the First Violin Concerto greater than the Second, and the Second Cello Concerto greater than the First.
Toninho Horta comes from the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil, from the same place and the same group of composers and musicians which gave us Milton Nascimento. Some of the most notable songs recorded by Nascimento are Horta's compositions, featuring "Beijo Partido" in Nascimento's album "Minas". This was a Horta's album recorded in 1989 for Verve Forecast. His inspiration on beautiful songs and sophisticated arrangements are all there. Also Pat Metheny plays the title song "Moonstone" in a guitar duo with Horta in this CD.
Recorded live at the Moscow Conservatory, this is a truly legendary performance. Any experienced veteran could be proud of it; that a boy of 12 should possess the necessary technique, the musical understanding and maturity, and the sustained concentration, is almost beyond belief. Reveling in his own limitless virtuosity, Kissin seems to be playing with as well as on the piano with elfin grace and delicacy; yet his command of the keyboard his warm, singing, powerful, varied tone are only tools for expressing his spontaneous response to the music.
Neither too nationalist nor too internationalist, this 1995 recording of Béla Bartók's two violin concertos featuring Thomas Zehetmair with Ivan Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is just right. Austrian-born Zehetmair has a fabulous technique, a warm but focused tone, and lively sense of rhythm, all of which make him an ideal Bartók player. His interpretations are less about showing off then about digging in, and his performances are more about the music than they are about the musician. Hungarian conductor Fischer and his Hungarian orchestra are not only up for the music in a technical sense, they are also down with the music in an emotional sense, and their accompaniments ground Zehetmair's coolly flamboyant performances. Captured in white-hot sound that is almost too vivid for its own good, these performances deserve to stand among the finest ever recorded.