There is no shortage of recordings of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, one of the most popular pieces in the classical repertory ever since its slow-movement clarinet solo underlaid the quintessence of cinematic romance, Brief Encounter. But this one, by pianist Alexandre Tharaud (he may not be as well known as the decision to omit his first name in the graphics would presume, but he's getting there), is worth strong consideration.
The title is bound to confuse (and possibly annoy) some blues purists. Except for a handful of straight blues numbers – including one of the most heartfelt T-Bone Walker tributes ever in "Duke's Mood" – Duke Robillard Plays Blues: The Rounder Years is mostly a rock-oriented anthology drawn from the post-Roomful of Blues but pre-Fabulous Thunderbirds stage of Robillard's career. No bonus tracks or previously unissued takes – just reissued material culled from four albums released on Rounder between 1983 and 1991. (Note that Robillard's "Rounder Years" also produced some fantastic swing music, but you won't find any of it here since it's been allocated to the sister compilation Duke Robillard Plays Jazz: The Rounder Years.) The '80s were an interesting decade for Robillard, as he took on a more stripped-down, roots rock (but still bluesy) approach with his trio, the Pleasure Kings, and then headed into that contemporary blues-rock zone often associated with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Longtime fans of reclusive Romanian pianist Radu Lupu will no doubt already know his handful of recordings of Brahms' piano music made in the '70s and early '80s for Decca – his recklessly imperious F minor Sonata, romantically dramatic D minor Concerto, inwardly brooding D minor Variations, and richly autumnal late rhapsodies, ballades, and intermezzos. But fans of Brahms' piano music who don't already know Lupu's recordings will be overwhelmed by what they'd heretofore missed. Lupu's full, round tone, his effortless virtuosity, his poetic intensity, and his soulful expressivity combine in unified performances of consummate artistry.
Riccardo Fassi has often worked around the music of Frank Zappa and, with the Tankio Band, had already recorded in the nineties a first homage to the genius and opera of the great Italian-American composer. Go back to Zappa's material with an articulated, full-bodied project rich in guests and suggestions, able to enter and exit the "non canonical canon" designed by compositions and Zappish interpretations. Fassi conceives a kind of "concert": the seventeen tracks are articulated around ten tracks of Zappa, with introductions and queues, two improvisations conducted by Fassi along with Antonello Salis and Uncle Remus by George Duke. In nearly seventy minutes overall, many things happen, following the spirit of the tutelary labor number.