On this album from 1963, Thomas led a quintet featuring saxophonist and flutist Jacques Pelzer, organist Lou Bennett, bassist Gilbert Rovere and drummer Charles Bellonzi. Thomas' sound in the early 1960s was ambitious, robust and modern, with enormous optimism built in. He employed a spirited technique that never gave hint that a pick was being used on the strings. Imagine a woodpecker hammering away on a rubber tree. Add Bennett's organ, and the group's sound was remarkably cool and distinctly European - swift but never frantic…
Although not quite at the level of profundity of his teacher Gustav Leonhardt's recording, Kenneth Gilbert's 1983 recording of Book 1 of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier does have a style and polish that Leonhardt's too often lacked. Thus, while Leonhardt goes further into some of the minor-key fugues to find intellectual and spiritual depths that Gilbert does not plumb, Gilbert's playing is so much more elegant and graceful than Leonhardt's that it is difficult to choose between them. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of virtuoso works whose success depends on the effortless refinement of the player, the Gilbert, with its superbly remastered sound, will be the one to get. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of prayers written as preludes and fugues, the Leonhardt will be preferable. Both are superb and both belong in any Bach collection.
With the possible exception of Richard Pinhas' Heldon, Gilbert Artman's Lard Free was probably the premier French progressive group of the '70s. The prolific Heldon might win in terms of amount of material, but the three near-perfect albums by Lard Free (despite the truly wretched band name) probably have them beat in terms of overall quality. Although Artman, a drummer who also dabbles in synthesizers and piano, called Lard Free a group, he was the only constant member; all three albums have different lineups. 1973's Lard Free consists of relatively short pieces with prominent piano and saxophone parts, and as such is the most jazz-oriented of the three. The following year's I'm Around About Midnight consists of three long pieces with much more synthesizer; at times, it sounds almost like early (pre-ambient) Tangerine Dream, or perhaps Clear Light, the French collective Artman and the then-current lineup of Lard Free occasionally worked with around this time. 1977's Lard Free III, also known as Spirale Malax, is Artman's best work, a pair of side-long experiments that combine space music, jazz, and King Crimson-style heavy progressive rock better than many groups (including King Crimson) could ever hope to manage.
Peppered with unforgettable melodies and tongue-twisting songs, The Pirates of Penzance is one of the most popular operettas ever written. Opera Australia's new production is an effervescent smash hit with a national tour and jubilant sellout seasons everywhere.
On Blues Is a Feeling, the late guitarist-vocalist Jesse Thomas delivers straightforward, rural-sounding blues in an intimate, drumless session from 1992 with pianist Jodie Christian and second guitarist John Primer. Thomas was 81 years old at the time of this recording, just three years before his death. And though his voice sounds somewhat frail here-and probably would’ve been overwhelmed by the sound of drums-Primer and Christian provide light, elegant accompaniment that puts Thomas’ soft yet expressive vocals in the foreground. And Thomas proves to be a humorous storyteller on tunes like “Married Woman Blues,” “She Throwed Me Clothes Outdoor” and “Santa Claus.”