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Blues Dialogues
David BAKER (1931–2016)
Blues (Deliver My Soul) (1968) [4:11]
Coleridge-Taylor PERKINSON (1932–2004)
Blue/s Forms for solo violin (1972) [6:51]
William Grant STILL (1895–1978)
Suite for Violin and Piano (1943) [12:51]
Noel Da COSTA (1929–2002)
A Set of Dance Tunes for Solo Violin (1968) [13:05]
Clarence Cameron WHITE (1880–1960)
Levee Dance, Op.26 No.2 (1927) [3:51]
Duke ELLINGTON (1899–1974)
In a Sentimental Mood (1935) arr. Wendell LOGAN (1988) [3:25]
Dolores WHITE (b.1932)
Blues Dialogues for solo violin (1988/2016) [10:13]
Errollyn WALLEN (b.1958)
Woogie Boogie (1999) [2:26]
Billy CHILDS (b. 1957)
Incident on Larpenteur Avenue (2018) [7:44]
Daniel Bernard ROUMAIN (b. 1977)
Filter for Unaccompanied Violin (1922, new cadenza, 2018) [4:35]
Charles S. BROWN (b.1940)
A Song Without Words (1974) [3:10]
Rachel Barton Pine (violin)
Matthew Hagle (piano)
rec. 2017/18, Nichols Hall, Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, IL
CEDILLE CDR90000182 [75:51]

I hadn’t realised that Rachel Barton Pine was so steeped in the Blues. The Chicagoan was brought up listening to the music, sneaking into clubs, buying sheet music and even has a collection of blues recordings. Working with Edgar Gabriel and a one-off jam with Son Seals and Sugar Blue can hardly have hindered her assimilation of the idiom either. A previous album of hers on Cedille was dedicated to Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th centuries – amazing to think that this was recorded fully two decades ago – so this latest release can be seen as complementary to that, not least because her foundation’s Music by Black Composers (MBC) project is devoted to promoting awareness of such music.

The programme ranges from contemporary composers that she has worked with to those who have composed pieces that sit on the periphery of the repertory, such as the works by Still and White. It makes for a varied listening experience not least in the solo pieces, of which there are a number. David Baker’s Blues employs virtuoso roulades and twisting lines redolent of Pentecostal gospel preaching in his adaption of his own Psalm 22 for chorus. The influential Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson wrote Blue/s Forms for Sanford Allen, the first full-time African-American violinist in the New York Philharmonic. In three crisp movements this solo study is alternately restless, slow (with mute) and angularly chromatic. His Louisiana Blues Strut, subtitled Cakewalk, is a kind of Plantation Dance full of grotesquery and sinuous mockery.

William Grant Still’s Suite is probably the nearest thing to a repertory piece in the album and the central Mother and Child movement is sometimes extracted for recitals so it’s good to hear the whole work, especially when so idiomatically performed, and so fluidly and fluently as here. In days gone by Louis Kaufman’s was the name associated with Still on disc, but Barton Pine’s aesthetic is very different, and she is not the tonal voluptuary Kaufman was. Noel da Costa’s A Set of Dance Tunes for Solo Violin begins, Erroll Garner-like, by teasing with the melody before unleashing a fast reel. Jigs and Clog Blues are part and parcel of his musical arsenal and cleverly a fast movement is followed by an expressive slower reflection on it. This is a world premiere recording.

Clarence Cameron White is still best remembered because Heifetz played and recorded his Levee Dance, which Barton Pine plays with appropriately skittish power and due sonorous respect for its Go Down, Moses central panel. Wendell Logan’s arrangement of Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood is here with some string plucking for the piano – this sounds, as she says in her booklet notes, like a double bass accompaniment to the violinist’s soulful melancholy. Dolores White’s Blues Dialogues is another piece to focus on solo violin and gives its name to the title of the album. There are four virtuoso vocalised studies that owe something to Bartók as much as jazz; indeed the jazziest of the four is the shortest movement, a Fast and Funky movement that functions as the set’s scherzo. Each of the smaller pieces is full of interest; Errolyn Wallen explores Boogie hijinks, Billy Child’s Incident on Larpenteur Avenue is a Barton Pine commission and evokes a recent 2016 killing in music that is both terse and hymnal. Filter by Daniel B Roumain is brilliantly supercharged and full of contemporary energy and the disc ends with Charles S Brown’s A Song without Words, a slow bluesy envoi.

Still’s Blues from Lenox Avenue in the Kaufman arrangement is available digitally but is not included in the CD.

It’s a given that her own documentation is so instructive and comprehensive, and that recorded sound is excellent. This fine disc explores music that is both under-performed and under-recorded, and throughout Barton Pine shows the finesse and stylistic assurance of the first-class performer she is.

Jonathan Woolf


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