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The Jazz Album
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
La Création du monde, Op.81 (1923) [16:28] 1
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (1924) orch. Ferde GROFÉ (1892-1972) [16:02] 3
Henry CREAMER (1879-1930), Turner LAYTON (1894-1978)
After you’ve gone (1918) [3:22]
Billie MEYERS, Elmer SCHOEBEL (1896-1970), Gus KAHN (1886-1941), Ernie ERDMAN (1879-1946)
Nobody’s Sweetheart (1924) [2:30]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Ebony Concerto (1945) [8:58] 2
(1900-1967), Victor YOUNG (1900-1956)
Sweet Sue (1928) [4:43] 5
(1897-1944), Johnny S. BLACK
Dardanella (1919) [2:59]
(1893-1947), Gus KAHN (1886-1941)
Makin’ Whoopee! (1928) [3:37] 5
Walter DONALDSON (1893-1947), George WHITING (1884-1943)
My Blue Heaven (1927) [3:12] 5
Lindsay McPHAIL
(1895-1965), Walter MICHELS
San (1920) [3:09]
Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949) [7:45] 2, 3
1 John Harle (alto saxophone), 2 Michael Collins (clarinet), 3 Peter Donohoe (piano), 4 Jeremy Taylor (high tenor), 5 Harvey and the Wallbangers,
London Sinfonietta/Sir Simon Rattle
rec. 30-31 December 1986, 2-3 January 1987, CTS Studios, Wembley



Experience Classicsonline

Plenty of good clean - and not so clean - fun here! We begin with a languid reading of Milhaud’s fascinating piece, the London Sinfonietta and John Harle’s alto saxophone articulate in the jazz phraseology required but never pretending that this is more than an early European take on jazz, not trying to play as if it is jazz. The result has a kind of sultry ardour, hinting at explosions that never quite come. Later on, in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto one could perhaps do with a bit more of the spirit of jazz itself in Michael Collins’ clarinet playing, which is a little on the over-polite side – as, indeed, is some of the trumpet work. Of the substantial pieces here, this is the performance about which I  have most reservations. Rhapsody in Blue we hear in the jazz-band arrangement by Grofé which I, at least, much prefer to the same arranger’s version for symphony orchestra. Peter Donohoe is a fluent but somewhat understated soloist, operating by relatively small gestures; but the whole works pretty well – even if there would be scope for a greater sense of freedom in some of the interplay between soloist and band. Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs makes for a splendid conclusion. I wonder if this was recorded last as well as being placed last on the disc? Certainly there is an assurance and relaxation, a quality of sheer swing, greater than that to be heard elsewhere on the disc. Soloists and London Sinfonietta – and Sir Simon, for that matter – sound as though they are really enjoying themselves here, in a performance of splendid exuberance and conviction, whereas in the other pieces so far discussed there are occasional moments which seem slightly over-studied.

Alongside these four pieces in which – more or less – jazz meets the classical, the disc offers a series of arrangements commissioned for Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, several of them impressive and striking. ‘After you’ve gone’ is heard in a lovely arrangement by William Grant Still, full of attractive orchestral colours, and delightful portamenti;  Lennie Hayton’s arrangement of ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’ actually finds room for an apt allusion to Petrushka!. The always accomplished Bill Challis contributes three arrangements, those of ‘Sweet Sue’, ‘Dardanella’, and ‘San’ (particularly rewarding), while Ferde Grofé is responsible for the arrangements on ‘Makin’ Whoopee!’ and ‘My Blue Heaven’. All – especially those by Challis – have their attractions.

The documentation on this reissue is pretty sparse. I have provided as much information as I can at the head of this review, but have had to leave one or two gaps. Otherwise there’s not much to complain about here, though personally I have never taken much pleasure in the vocal work of Harvey and the Wallbangers, which always seems too close to reductive pastiche. Otherwise this is an enjoyable programme, the Whitman arrangements as much as the set pieces, the London Sinfonietta evidently relishing this repertoire.

Glyn Pursglove



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