Collection: Leonard BERNSTEIN
music by, plus Anthony Dilorenzo & Charles Pillow
Dorian xCD-90278 *
Fancy Free suite, West Side Story suite,
Mass (six selections), Divertimento for
Orchestra, Wrong Note Rag (Bernstein,) Mostly
Influential (Dilorenzo) Suite from West Side
Collection: Leonard BERNSTEIN, George GERSHWIN,
On the Town
Center City Brass Quintet
Chandos CHAN 4554 *
Bernstein Suites: On the
Town & West Side Story,
Gershwin: Porgy and
'Caravan', Chelsea Bridge (melody by Billy
Strayhorn), 'Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me'.
How composed can music be and still be considered jazz? While you consider
than philosophical conundrum let me introduce the first guests tonight. Step
up the Proteus 7, an ensemble comprising two trumpeters, two trombonists,
tuba, woodwinds and percussion. Their tribute to Bernstein, that's Leonard,
not Elmer, comprises seven works, five by the man himself, and two homages
by members of the band. The arrangements are mostly by F. Reza Zweifel, Proteus
7's percussionist, and the selections are particularly dance orientated.
What is immediately striking is that while the playing is tight, the music
has a loose feel, perhaps not being quite as punchy as one might like.
Nevertheless, the opener, three dances from Fancy Free has an
appropriately carnival atmosphere and the reduced orchestration allows the
writing to shine. Of course Fancy Free inspired the musical On
the Town, which by accident or design is the title of a new release on
Chandos which I shall come to presently.
A suite from West Side Story features 'Prologue/Jet Song', 'Somewhere',
'Tonight', 'Maria' and 'Mambo' and with repeated plays it has grown on me.
Once you get over missing the vocals the music works well, and seems,
particularly in the precise percussion and rhythmic interplay of the prologue
to have a greater focus than the Fancy Free suite. Complementing this
is Suite from West Side Story by woodwind player Charles Pillow. Bravely
he mixes Bernstein with his own material and comes away after 6 minutes without
egg on his face.
Bernstein's Mass (1971) caused controversy the first time round for
the inclusion of electric guitar, so why not arrange it again for jazz brass
ensemble? If at first it seems less successful than the theatrically derived
material it may be that the changes wrought are more fundamental, that the
material has travelled further. Still, taken on it's own terms there is still
much to enjoy, though one should probably look at the six selections as a
new work and take them on their own terms. At this level the folk-like 'Simple
Song' as particularly successful. There is no striving for effect. Just a
good tune, very well played.
Mostly Influential is by trumpeter Anthony DiLorenzo and offers three short
fantasies, sketches of an imaginary late-night poker game between Bernstein,
Prokofiev and Einstein. 'Ante Up' is Prokofiev, '3am Blues' strives for classic
early morning New York melancholy, and hits the spot with some mournfully
interwoven trumpet lines before perking up into something rather more optimistic
and energetic. 'Ace's High' is Bernstein, all bright and freshly polished
with All-American spirit.
It's a nice, undemanding album and would make a fine addition to the library
of the Bernstein collector who has everything, or that of simply anyone who
appreciates the composer at his jazziest. The 24bit recording has great clarity
and dynamic range.
I saved Anthony DiLorenezo's piece till last when discussing the Proteus
7 album, because he is back again as one of two trumpeters, opening the second
album under consideration with his own arrangement of a suite from On
the Town. This is a programme by the Center City Brass Quintet, which
like Proteus 7 appears to be based in Cleveland, Ohio. Again it is a 24bit
recording, and perhaps because it was recorded in a church acoustic has a
rather softer, more glowing ambience which, against what one might imagine,
suits the music well. Here the arrangements have a definitely more composed
feel, resulting in an album that all-round will have greater appeal to UK
classical listeners who happen to like some jazz-flavourings on the side.
There are fewer works given more extensive readings. DiLorenzo's On the
Town suite is a premiere in this version, while Jack Gale's elegant suites
from West Side Story and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess have rarely
been recorded. 'Summertime' in particular is given a 'big' voice which belies
the fact that there are only five players: twin trumpets, horn, trombone
and tuba. The arrangements are exquisitely polished and the playing blends
so tightly, 'sings' so persuasively in the voices of the different instruments,
that the music comes alive in an entirely fresh way. The three tunes by 'Duke'
Ellingon end the album, idiosyncratic and quixotic as ever, whatever genre
one chooses to assign them, they simply make cracking music.
Inevitably the two albums have much in common, though the lack of percussion
and woodwind on the Center City Brass Quintet set somehow forges a greater
cohesion. The sound may be more limited, but the playing embraces the listener
more than Proteus 7. Both discs are worth acquiring, but if it has to be
just one I would without a moment's hesitation opt for a night On the
; On the
Gary S. Dalkin