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Simon Rattle: Americana
Leonard BERNSTEIN

Wonderful Town - Overture

George GERSHWIN

Rhapsody in Blue

Felix BERNARD

Dardanella

Walter DONALDSON

Makin’ Whoopee!

Lindsay McPHAIL

San

Leonard BERNSTEIN

Prelude, Fugue and Riffs

Igor STRAVINSKY

Ebony Concerto

Bill STRAYHORN, arr. and orch. Luther HENDERSON
Take the ‘A’ Train

Duke ELLINGTON etc.

Sophisticated Lady
That Doo-wah Thing

George GERSHWIN

Summertime

John ADAMS

Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, London Sinfonietta, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, The London Philharmonic, Harvey and the Wallbangers, Michael Collins, clarinet, Clark Terry, trumpet, Bobby Watson, alto saxophone, Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, Regina Carter, violin, Geri Allen, piano, Lewis Nash, drums, Peter Washington, bass, Hardyn Blackwell, soprano, Damon Evans, tenor/Sir Simon Rattle
Recorded at various venues between 1987 and 1999
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 57691 [77:31]

 

A highly varied and entertaining compilation, this, of Rattle recordings from over the past seventeen years or so. They reflect his love of the various facets of American music. There are three classics of ‘symphonic jazz’ here: the celebrated Rhapsody in Blue, Bernstein’s early Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, and part of Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, included quite legitimately as it was composed for the great jazz clarinettist Woody Herman. The disc concludes with John Adams’ ill-fated (in the UK at any rate) Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

Rattle has always had a great empathy for jazz and show music, as evidenced by Summertime, Makin’ Whoopee and several others interspersed amongst the more substantial pieces. There is a particularly good version of Take the ‘A’ Train, with the CBSO fronted by some fine jazz soloists, to give it a taste of authenticity. I very much enjoyed Regina Carter’s feisty violin, with cheeky hints of English Country Garden sneaked in.

I’m not so totally convinced by this version of Rhapsody in Blue, which first appeared in an issue called The Jazz Album. It uses the Grofé orchestration, which is much less sumptuous than the versions commonly heard today, and the dry studio acoustic emphasises the more athletic qualities of the music. Donohoe plays up to this too, and it all makes a very interesting ‘alternative’ reading, if you like. Not sure it comes off, though; there’s a lack of affection in the way the performers approach the piece.

On the other hand, Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, which is a more cerebral work altogether, receives a tremendous work-out, with Michael Collins revelling in the technical demands of the clarinet part. I’m always pleased with the staccato chord for sax quartet at 2:21, which is so very much not together! How easy it would have been to drop an immaculate chord in when editing this, and I’m so glad they resisted the temptation.

The standard of the performers, as you’d expect from a Rattle issue, is consistently high, though some may find Harvey and the Wallbangers a bit camp! Perhaps a CD not to listen to too closely, but certainly highly entertaining.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

 



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