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All American
Kristen Plumley (soprano)
Ron Levy (piano)
New Jersey Wind Symphony/Christian Wilhjelm
rec. 2018, West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, USA

Jeffrey Kaufman has done it again and into the bargain has laid about him, swatting together a collection of crack pieces. They catch demonstration standards and musical substance and in rowdy analytical sound.

Talk about wild and woolly. We certainly get that and more from the aggressive and adrenalin-soaked Asphalt Cocktail by John Mackey. It's like Grainger's Warriors in a car crash head on with Michael Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony. After this coruscating phantasmagoria comes the brooding dignity and then whooping celebration of Howard Hanson's Chorale and Alleluia. From the same generation comes Copland's Quiet City. Roger Widicus (trumpet) and Mark J Donnellan (English Horn) are assertively placed in a subtly shifting subdued and understated soundscape.
Jeffrey Kaufman's Court and Jester for Piano and 23 Winds nicely encapsulates in sound the modest dignity of some royal court and contrasts this with romantic spectacle. There's little knockabout despite the reference to Jester. Kaufman mixes Ron Levy's gawky piano into the wind orchestra's palette but the piano keeps its eminence and sounds rather like the unruly Rhapsody for Piano and Brass Band by Gordon Jacob or Malcolm Arnold's Concerto for Two Pianos (both terribly underestimated works). It's a vibrantly romantic work. Michael Valenti's Blood Red Roses was written in 1970 as a prelude to a Broadway show called A Play with Songs. It's a determined, jolly and jaunty piece. Then come three show songs in eight minutes where the NJWS are joined by the full-on, big hall, vibrant voice of Kristen Plumley. For these she adopts a fully-wound operatic style rather than a Broadway theatrical voice. She succumbs to some vibrato in the testingly slow Kiss Me Again but is more comfortably at home in Embraceable You. The CD ends with Gershwin's Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra - hardly the most commonly encountered piece even in its orchestral dress-up. Here we are confronted with a pretty snappy and exciting transcription for concert band and piano. It's snappily and swooningly performed by the band and soloist. The nicely done re-instrumentation is by James C Ripley.

Well recorded and performed, fully annotated and with a slam-dunk recording, there's something for everyone in this All American collection. Do have a riffle through Phoenix USA's web-site. There are some surprising things there.

Rob Barnett
Disc contents
John MACKEY (b.1937)
Asphalt Cocktail [6:08]
Howard HANSON (1896-1981)
Chorale and Alleluia [4:05]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Quiet City [10:06]
Jeffrey KAUFMAN (b.1947)
Court and Jester [15:09]
Michael VALENTI (b.1942)
Blood Red Roses [8:25]
Alan Jay LERNER and Frederick LOWE
I Could Have Danced All Night [2:09]
Kiss Me Again [2:43]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1932)
Embraceable You [3:20]; Second Rhapsody for Solo Piano and Wind Ensemble [17:36]

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