….and a tenuous link to Javanese gamelan.
A Bolero Dancer – Antonio Cabral Bejarano,1842
There can be few music lovers who are not familiar with Maurice Ravel and his Boléro. It is one of his most famous works, originally written as a ballet score commissioned by Ida Rubinstein, but now usually played as a concert piece. It was originally called Fandango but has rhythmic similarities with the Spanish dance form as described in this article, a genre of slow-tempo Latin music and its associated dance.
So where, you may be asking, does Javanese gamelan enter the picture? Eva Gauthier spent a few years in Java studying the music before the outbreak of the first World War in 2014 when she returned to New York. A mezzo-soprano, she included a few Javanese songs in her mainly classical (Ravel, Stravinsky et al) performance repertoire, and later, in 1923, was the first singer of jazz music in a concert hall. She loaned her Javanese notebooks to Maurice Ravel, her favourite composer, who had been enamoured with gamelan since the 1889 Exposition Universelle de Paris,
(You will find a compilation of Jazz for Eva Gauthier here.)
That connection from 1923 is all that’s needed to offer you this compilation of jazz versions of Ravel’s classic composition. It also seems perfectly obvious to start with the recording by Jacques Louissier, who is better known for his trio’s jazz interpretations of Bach.
The Half Quartet Jazz Duo’s very unique version was found on YouTube, whereas I have the jazz-fusion album by Toto Blanke’s Electric Circus. Jacob Karlson, on the other hand is besotted with Ravel, and the version you’ll hear comes from his album Piano Improvisations Inspired By Ravel.