Stride pianist Don Ewell made three albums for Good Time Jazz during 1956-57 and all are quite enjoyable. This CD reissues the first of his LPs (great title!) and features Ewell on five solos and seven pieces with a trio that also includes clarinetist Darnell Howard and drummer Minor Hall. Ewell is in top form and the many highlights include "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me," Howard's "Bush Street Scramble," "You Took Advantage of Me" and "My Honey's Lovin' Arms.
Kenny Barron and Jimmy Owens' first recording was a solid debut. The exciting title cut, "You Had Better Listen," composed by Jimmy Owens, is good, basic, uptempo jazz, nothing fancy, no frills. The Jimmy Owens-Kenny Barron Quintet doesn't condescend like some jazz artists tend to do; casuals can groove, relate, nod their heads in approval and feel righteous about it. Owens plays some beautiful trumpet scales, while Barron keeps busy banging chord progressions. The other members of the quintet are Benny Maupin (tenor sax, flute), Chris White (bass), Freddie Waits (drums on tracks one, two and four), and Rudy Collins (drums on tracks three through five).
As everyone with a thesaurus knows, urgency rhymes with emergency. And these performances of Rachmaninov's works for piano and orchestra by Stephen Hough with Andrew Litton leading the Dallas Symphony are nothing if they are not urgent. Hough's tempos are quick and strong and vital, with plenty of rubato and lots of accelerando. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that.
Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch is best known for his works on Jewish themes and subjects – Baal Shem, Schelomo, the Israel Symphony – but the majority of his works are abstract, if heavily accented music written in the standard late nineteenth century central European harmonies and forms. This 2007 Hyperion disc features two large-scale chamber works by Bloch, his three-movement piano quintets from 1923 and 1957, plus three shorter pieces for string quartet alone: Night and Paysages (Landscapes) both from 1923 and Two Pieces from 1938 and 1950.
When Pogorelich did not make the finals of the 1980 Warsaw Competition (where they play exclusively Chopin), his response was to sign with Deutsche Grammophon for his first recording and he made it an all-Chopin affair. From his stunning opening take on Chopin's Sonata #2, to a Funeral March restored to its grandeur, to the breaktaking final moments of the Scherzo #3, Pogorelich announced to the music world that he'd arrived.
This set is a remarkable bargain, containing all of Brahms's solo piano music, including such chips from his workshop as cadenzas for other composers' concertos and a series of strictly mechanical piano studies that nobody will want to listen through. No matter. Idil Biret has a firm grasp of Brahms's idiom, and she plays with insight and passion throughout the set. Although she doesn't startle with her virtuosity, she handles the considerable technical demands of the music with great confidence.
Rachmaninov's opus 1, his first piano concerto, deserves to be heard more often. The opening bars have that heroic sound that raises the hair on the back of the neck. Indeed those first moments rank alongside those of the Grieg and Tchaikovsky piano concertos for their ability to thrill. Ashkenazy's breathtaking playing on a superb piano is matched by that of the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Haitink's direction.
This outstanding two-CD survey of the piano music of Christian Wolff comes courtesy of the composer's longtime friend, pianist John Tilbury, with a little help from Matchless label boss (and fellow AMM mainstay) Eddie Prévost and the composer himself. Wolff's studies with John Cage began at the tender of age of 16, and "For Prepared Piano" (1951) is an affectionate nod toward the rhythmic procedures of his teacher, who sent his student off to the hotbed of avant-garde Europe that same year to meet Pierre Boulez.