Released a year after his successful duets double album, French icon Charles Aznavour's 2009 follow-up is another collaborative effort, this time with Los Angeles-based Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Featuring duets with jazz vocalists Rachelle Ferrell and Dianne Reeves, it includes 14 big-band interpretations of both his classic standards ("La Boheme," "Comme Ils Disent"), and several less familiar tracks ("Je N'ouiblerai Jamais," "Des Amis Des Deux Cotes").
Helge Sunde is a 44-year-old Norwegian trombonist and composer who often works with jazz/classical composer Geir Lysne, sounds as if he checks out Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates, Carla Bley, and British jazz and TV composer Colin Towns – and who has produced a cracker of a contemporary big-band album with this set. Sunde's Denada ensemble has produced powerful work before, but the balance of moods, melodic variety and arranging ingenuity on Finding Nymo (the sax-playing Nymo brothers Frode and Atle are star soloists) ought to raise his standing outside continental Europe. He throws listeners off the big-band scent with the eerie vocoder whispers at the start, but busy phrase-swapping between the horns, and arrhythmic ensemble riffs with solo-sax wails rising out of them introduce a Django Bates feel. When In Rome is a hooting, swaggering theme with revving engines and street noise, Valse Triste starts like a funeral lament and turns into a demonically waltzing dance, and the title track begins as tentative, sputtery improv, then coalesces into a melody. Guests Olka Konkova (piano) and Marilyn Mazur add flourishes to an already formidable set.
It's a tall order to compile the best classical music of the twentieth century, but EMI has selected its top 100 classics for this six-disc set, and it's difficult to argue with most of the choices. Without taking sides in the great ideological debates of the modern era – traditionalist vs. avant-garde, tonal vs. atonal, styles vs. schools, and so on – the label has picked the composers whose reputations seem most secure at the turn of the twenty-first century and has chosen representative excerpts of their music. Certainly, the titans of modernism are here, such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergey Prokofiev, Claude Debussy, and Benjamin Britten, to name just a few masters, but they don't cast such a large shadow that they eclipse either their more backward-looking predecessors or their more experimental successors.
Although the musical Oliver! was a successful musical (both in London and the U.S.), pianist Bob Dorough was one of the few (maybe only) jazz musicians who saw the possibilities to improvise upon its music. Omitting vocals on this occasion, Dorough examines both the dramatic nature of the 11 songs as well as finding humor within some of them. "Boy for Sale" is very moody, featuring Al Schackman on bouzoukee (not exactly an instrument heard on the common jazz date), while he switches to classical guitar for a bossa nova arrangement of the normally plaintive ballad "Where Is Love?" and sticks to electric guitar on the rest of the date…