RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Get Happy - Virtuoso showtunes for piano
Blue Skies (Irving Berlin, arr. Dick Hyman) [1:21]
I Got Rhythm (George Gershwin, arr. Earl Wild) [2:18]
Eliza in Ascot (Lerner & Loewe, arr. Stefan Malzew) [4:59]
Lover (Rodgers & Hart, arr. Alexis Weissenberg [3:24]
Begin the Beguine (Cole Porter, arr. Cy Walter) [3:56]
Johanna (Stephen Sondheim, arr. Christopher O’Riley) [2:28]
Carousel Waltz (Rodgers & Hammerstein, arr. Stephen Hough) [6:18]
March of the Siamese Children (Rodgers & Hammerstein, arr. Stephen Hough) [3:57]
Blue Moon (Rodgers & Hart, arr. André Previn) [2:16]
Cheek to Cheek (Irving Berlin, arr. Dick Hyman) [2:08]
Embraceable You (George Gershwin, arr. Earl Wild) [3:13]
Meditation on “Laura” (David Raksin, arr. Marc-André Hamelin) [5:21]
Bess, You Is My Woman Now (George Gershwin, arr. David Saperton) [5:52]
Fascinatin’ Rhythm (George Gershwin, arr. Earl Wild) [1:33]
So in Love (Cole Porter, arr. Greg Anderson) [4:30]
My Favorite Things (Rodgers & Hammerstein, arr. Stephen Hough) [3:15]
Hello, Young Lovers (Rodgers & Hammerstein, arr. Stephen Hough) [2:27]
Get Happy (Harold Arlen, arr. Stephen Prutsman) [4:54]
Jenny Lin (piano)
rec. 31 May-2 June, 2012, Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia, USA
STEINWAY & SONS 30011 [64:05]
“Get Happy,” Jenny Lin’s new recital told me. “Come on,” I said back. “Make me”. Then it did.
Yes: “Get Happy” gets me happy. I’ve tried it on several occasions, even almost medicinally once in a very bad mood. It works. Doctors should prescribe it. The medicine is not at all mysterious: take classic Broadway show-tunes like “Blue Skies”, “Begin the Beguine”, “Blue Moon” and “My Favorite Things” mix in a few other delicious morsels from musicals and movies. Then pare them down for the piano and dress them up in glittering costumes designed by performers who live and breathe jazz. Finally hand the whole thing over to Jenny Lin, one of the best new pianists of the century so far. How could it fail to make me happy?
Here’s Earl Wild’s high-octane, sporty rewrite of “I Got Rhythm”; here’s jazz legend Dick Hyman riffing on Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek”; here’s Stephen Hough’s frankly fantastic transcription of the Carousel Waltz. Jenny Lin asked a few of her friends to contribute, too, and they provided still more riches. Stephen Prutsman is tasked with “Get Happy”, of which Lin says in the booklet, “One has to feel like Liberace when playing this!” Marc-André Hamelin supplies a wonderfully introspective Meditation on the main theme from Otto Preminger’s classic film Laura. This is not the same side of Hamelin which one hears in his finger-shredding études; instead of giving pianists nightmares this short work should steal into their dreams.
In Jenny Lin’s hands, the hour passes like a gift from the gods of happy. She’s got it all: a voracious appetite for lesser-known music, total technical command of even the most difficult music, a keen emotional ear, and a spirit of adventure and good cheer. She sounds completely at ease in this idiom, her fingers unbroken by the cascades of notes which composers like Earl Wild poured all over the page. More importantly, she has a great sense of fun, wit, and, oh, what’s the word? Happiness. That’s the word.
The recording engineers (from the Sono Luminus label) have brought a flattering sound to their piano. Listen: I can’t promise that this album is a medically viable substitute for, say, antidepressants or a loving companion, but it really is an outright joy. It’s something every piano collection should have. For sixty-four minutes, you’ll really believe it’s nothing but blue skies from now on.
“Get Happy”? The title sounds bossy, but it isn’t, because the album works like a charm.
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