JONATHAN LARSON PROJECT: You really want to feel like a Broadway insider? Here's a collection of works from the creator of "Rent", who passed before his musical theater juggernaut turned out to be a real game changer, and never got his due in his life time. Under the sympathetic aegis of Jennifer Tepper, these unreleased works are given a high energy, engaging presentation that will appeal to the vast fan base that has been on board since his passing over two decades ago. It hard to imagine calling yourself a hard core contemporary musical theater fan without giving this collection and enthusiastic thumbs up.
BE MORE CHILL/original Broadway cast recording: Whither the blue haired ladies with Hot Tix in hand to follow the latest from that nice, young Andy Webber? The nu generation has spoken as this left field off Broadway entry into modern musical theater moves to the mainstream and blazes a whole new trail. Kind of a cyber punk thing about a pill that can make you popular, this takes off from the modern music that "Hamilton" brought to the fore. As contemporary as can be in content, no wonder this speaks so loudly to the nu generation. Witness the torch passing.
NORA YORK/Swoon: Eva Cassidy, Nancy LaMott--it always seems like there's some worthy vocalist that flies sunder the radar and passes before her time. York, an interpreter and writer that went her own way without being an art chick, is the latest to add to that line. A jazzy, sassy record that leaves you wondering whether she's playing a part or can swing from one extreme to another with ease, leaves you with a good taste no matter what. Culled from a batch of unreleased material, hopefully this is just the tip of the ice berg instead of the end of the line. She was a winner and captain of a wild ride.
(Good Mood )
DICK HYMAN & KEN PEPLOWSKI/Counterpoint Lerner & Loewe: More than a improv inspired duet by two old pals that really understand the music, this appreciation and re-evaluation of the Broadway A team takes some of their most formidable works and shows how adaptable they are in loving hands. Played with a range that takes them from the bawdy house to the Broadway house, these two keepers of the joyful noise deliver throughout in a way that'll give the estates behind this project the gusto to keep keeping the songs alive. Well done throughout.
(Arbors Jazz 19471)
ADRIAN CUNNINGHAM & His Friends/Plays Lerner & Loewe: It's been over 60 years since Shelley Manne and his pals made the biggest selling jazz record of the times with a L&L program. Professor Cunningham rounds up some of his best teacher's pets to do it again. While the underlying shows much of this music comes from wouldn't stand the scrutiny of these woke times, the music, especially without the lyrics, just towers mightily. This record is just so understatedly classy that you'll hear it and still not believe it. Classy, classic and in a class by itself. A winner throughout---and then some.
(Arbors Jazz 19470)
GORDON LIGHTFOOT/Sunday Concert Plus: 50 years ago, you could sit front row at one of Lightfoot's Massey Hall concerts for a top price of $5. Already a Canadian national treasure and right at the cusp of hitting his international prime, this live album of mostly new tunes was his farewell to his record company and manager as he knew the greener pastures were beckoning. With Shea and Haynes in tow, he delivered on a program that still sounds contemporary all these years later, both in form and content. Face it, Gord's gold.
(Bear Family 15691)
BUDDY GRECO/Let's Love & I Like it Swinging: Anyone that would remember Greco coming up as a swinging jazz singer under Benny Goodman is probably dead. Now, he's remembered by boomers as a jive ass Vegas finger popping daddio that symbolized everything wrong with the establishment. These two albums produced by Al Cohn with the era's top jazzbos in tow (including Zoot Sims) finds Greco shaking off the last of his jazz vocal days looking to fill a nook between Sinatra, Prima and Davis before letting those fingers really pop. These tracks could live on their own without the vocals since the players are so strong but the song choices are faultless. A nice addition to any jazz vocal collection.
ALFONSO CALDERON DE CASTRO/Joan Guinjoan Fundamental Works: With a professional and personal relationship underpinning the works here, the piano man gives the writer's free jazz a crime jazz feel ala late 50s Bernstein making this something that could roll off from the nu version of "West Side Story"'s energy. Not wine and cheese recitation music by any stretch, it's playfully adventurous stuff for ears up for new thrills. The dexterity alone here is breath taking---the rest of it goes even further. How can a set like this not turn out to be some kind of prize winner?
L'APOTHEOSE/Handel Tribute: This chamber group delivers exactly the way you'd want a classical chamber group to deliver. With quiet class and fire, they do much more than hit all the right notes giving these works the proper setting and send off at each turn. Purely professional but never playing without passion, they bring the music to life in fine style. Not even hitting warhorse repertoire, they engage you with such sprightly playing that you don't care if these works are new to you at all. Well done.
ORQUESTRA BARROCA DE GRANADA & ILIBER ENSEMBLE/Le Guerra de Los Gigantes: Forward thinking composer Sebastian Duron lived in the 1600s and is little remembered hardly performed today. Pity. This opera about a war of the giants could stand on it's own against any of the revered pieces from that time still performed today. Deemed a fink because he brought Italian influences to Spanish works, his trouncing almost feels like a parallel story to Mozart's. Any classic period opera fans looking for something new but not contemporary should cast an ear in this direction---it's a real ear opener and done in first class style throughout.
WENTUS BLUES BAND with Duke Robillard/Too Much Mustard: Talk about white boys with the blues! A chance meeting 30 years ago between this bunch as teens and Duke Robillard turned into a killer workout as the band celebrates it's 30th anni as one of the top blues acts from the really frozen north. There's really no traces of west side or Delta lurking in these grooves, but groove they do. Fun stuff that just doesn't quit.
TOM RIGNEY & Flambeau/Let the Four Winds Blow: Everybody's fave purveyor of parties on platters is at it again with his regular crew and some real bayou boys along for the ride. Letting the good time roll in high and fine style, the Nawlins roots are flying high in fine form here. Working within narrow margins but managing not to repeat himself, this is a real gasser with the flame burning high.
Volume 43/Number 334
September 20, 2019
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2019 Midwest Record
Did you know we dig you linking to us? Go ahead. It's fun and easy. Want to make sure your link opens to your review? See those dates on the side of the page? Click on the one that relates to the page you want. That page's permalink will open in the browser window. Just cut and paste from there and we're off to the races.
Tossing a doubloon, shilling or sheckle in the Paypal tip jar is not only very appreciated but helps keep this site happy and well fed.
FTC Blogger Disclosure: Hold on, we're working on something that doesn't sound lame.