Val Xavier is a drifter in 1940's Mississippi who brings new life to an Italian immigrant woman trapped in a loveless marriage
A document of a 2012 Japanese solo recital – not only the last in his homeland but the last anywhere – by idiosyncratic improviser Masabumi Kikuchi (1939-2015). One of the uncategorisable greats, Kikuchi occupied his own musical universe and in his final years was quietly and systematically severing his ties to jazz, drifting instead towards what he called ‘floating sound and harmonies’, introspective and poetic improvisations. Song forms still sometimes materialized. Kikuchi revisits “Little Abi”, a ballad for his daughter, which the pianist once recorded with Elvin Jones. And there is a surprising and very touching version of the wistfully yearning theme from the 1959 Brazilian film Black Orpheus.
In the Baroque and Classical periods, it seems like anyone who was famous in the world of opera did something with the story of Orpheus. Retrospectively, it is sometimes really hard to see why this appealed to so many. To be sure, the symbolism of the power of music, not to mention the tragic story of love lost, won again through hardship and devotion, and finally and irrevocably lost, seems ready-made for opera. Moreover, any composer would love to set the scenes of Orpheus in Hades. But the plot really seems to need something, like a happy ending, extra characters, or lots and lots of dances to pass the time. Georg Philipp Telemann’s excursion into this story certainly has its share of things.
Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman’s neat encapsulation of the Orpheus myth infuses his solo recording debut, ‘Songs of Orpheus.’ Orpheus, the greatest singer of all time, famously followed his deceased beloved Eurydice to the gates of Hades in an attempt to bring her back to life. He was thwarted by the gods who forbade him to gaze at her during their journey back to earth. he could not resist, and the tale has been told in numerous musical interpretations including those of Monteverdi and his 17th-century compatriots who are represented on this imaginative album, performed with leading baroque interpreters Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire. Acclaim for Karim Sulayman and Apollo’s Fire has been widespread: “the soloists and instrumentalists are first class” (BBC Music Magazine) “an absorbing collection of early music, beautifully performed by the Cleveland-based instrumental-choral ensemble and vocal soloists” (Chicago Tribune).