All posts tagged classical

When I was at uni., a fellow student (Hi, Bob) was learning classical guitar. While others were raving about Hendrix, I would be sat at Bob’s feet. Discounting the descant recorder, on which I was really proficient as an elementary school pupil, I’ve never mastered a musical instrument. However, apart from jazz, my favourite genre is the classical guitar, and I’ve sat in bliss at concerts by Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream (interview), and John Williams (interview).

I got to recognise many ‘classic’ classical compositions by Isaac Albeniz, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Malcolm Arnold et al . But there’s been just one constant since then: the composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 – 1999). His 1939 composition Concierto de Aranjuez is arguably one of the most popular concertos of all time, thanks in no small measure to the extraordinary beauty of its central Adagio, which has been arranged for everything from mouth organ to brass band (video).

Rodrigo wrote: “I heard a voice inside me singing the entire theme of the Adagio at one go, without hesitation.”

The first version I heard, and bought, was by Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes.

What can I say about Narciso Yepes? What can I say about the guitarist to whom we owe the international success of the Concerto de Aranjuez? Yes, it was in Paris in 1947 where Ataulfo Argenta, Yepes and the Spanish National Orchestra met to illuminate my unique opus at a time when no one knew its true future. From then on, the Concierto de Aranjuez took on a new nature, and it is for this same reason that I am grateful to Narciso Yepes for the fruit of an intense collaboration that has brought us to travel our musical trajectories side-by-side. I will not say that Yepes was the best nor the worst. He has simply been my guitarist par excellence. My guitarist.”
(Joaquin Rodrigo in ‘El Mundo’ May 4, 1997)

There can be few who haven’t heard Adagio and been moved. Jazz fans probably have Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain and Jim Hall’s Concierto, but may not have heard the versions by Dorothy Ashby, MJQ, Jan Akkerman with Niels Henning Orsted Pederson on bass. Or by Indonesia’s Agam Hamzah and Ade Irawan (here – video)

There are seven tracks in today’s compilation from the IndoJazzia archives including alternate takes of the Miles Davis classic: download from here or here..


Classical Jazz 2

The sub-title doesn’t refer to classic tunes, but to interpretations of classical music by jazz musicians. Back in February I posted a short selection of Ravel’s Bolero here – the download link is still live.

Nearly ten years ago, an article by contemporary composer Mark-Anthony Turnage in the Guardian posed the question ‘Why do so few classical musicians take jazz seriously?

Turnage does, and has worked with the likes of drummer Pete Erskine and guitarist John Schofield improvising within a score played by classically trained musicians. But, he says, he can’t play jazz himself.

Bruce Chidester cynically or satirically – I can’t tell – suggests differences between classical and jazz musicians.

The left side of the brain is the seat of language and processes in a logical and sequential order (classical musician). The right side is more visual and processes intuitively, holistically, and randomly (jazz musician).

Which are you? Here’s a quick test.
(Although I’m right-handed and not ambidextrous, I have a split personality.)

I became a committed jazz fan as a teenager – my father played stride piano at home – yet the first album I bought was Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto. Obviously Bach has been an influence on countless jazz musicians. Here’s a selection of tracks from the IndoJazzia archives.

01. Fats Waller – Bach Up to Me
02. Benny Goodman – Bach Goes To Town
03. Django Reinhardt – Bach Improvisation
04. Jacques Loussier Trio – Bach’s Pastorale in C minor
05. Classical Jazz Quartet – Concerto #2 in F major BWV 1047, 2nd Movement
06. Duran, Grappelli & Holloway – Brandenburg Boogie
07. George Barnes & Jazz Renaissance Quintet – Fugue in G Minor (Part 1 of 2)
08. Ray Brown & Laurindo Almeida – Air On The G-String
09. Oscar Peterson – The Bach Suite (Allegro-Andante-Bach’s Blues)
10. Petra Haden – Bach’s Prelude No. 2 in C minor
11. David Darling, Jorge Alfano, Joseph Nagler – Bach’s Persia

….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.