Monday, 20 April 2015

Joh Yamada [Bluestone]

A disc i bought in 2003, not one of my greatest Jazz purchases, but it's a disc which has slowly built up a reputation for me, i've come to appreciate it over the years, there's nothing really revolutionary here, pretty standard stuff in an old school sort of way, a Charlie Parker and Jackie McLean disciple, gives you some idea of what he sounds like, featured quite heavily in my Blog [21 January 2010 & 3rd January 2013].

Joh Yamada is Japanese, he's now 46, he recorded this disc back in 1997, doesn't seem to be very active in the recording studio, i think he's only got one other album, the photography for this issue is excellent [by John Abbott], a close up on the front cover, i like the way the main lettering is vertical, and kudos to the record company for producing such a nice back inlay too, nice sharp photos, love the blue theme.

On this listen i really loved tracks 2 & 5-6, here's a short synopsis of them all,
2 Bluestone [9:52] - A gentle ticking / rocking in the rhythm section, bright playing of a simple tune by Yamada, certainly the Pianist Chestnut is quite clever, creating ripples of interest, sounds a lot like Cedar Walton, Yamada switches from playing straight to swinging and back, he isn't one of these players that have to produce a thousand notes per minute, he lets the music tunes do the talking, Chestnut has a solo in the middle [4:34-6:41], and in some ways seems to try to get a little too clever, but he's good too, the gentle ticking of Clarence Penn's drums is a nice addition.
5 Never Let Me Go [6:47] - A really touching tune, came to know it from Keith Jarrett, Yamada plays the main theme gently and breathy [0:23+], and then with more passion [0:56+], really affecting, it's a sax and piano duet to begin with, takes ages for the rhythm section to come in [1:32+], in Chestnut's solo [2:24-4:25] he again tries to outclever Yamada, though towards the end there's some beautiful treble key work, in Yamada's solo [4:25+], he really flows more than usual. 
6 The Sacred Eyes [5:19] - Bassist Rodney Whittaker gets his chance to shine in starting this one off, a slow lumbering idea at first, but i love the way he swings things up [0:46], and with one smash of the drums [0:54] Yamada throws himself into this one, Chestnut again has a really clever solo [2:59-4:16], going off in all directions, a real barnstormer.

Here's a sample of all the tracks on the AllMusic website.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Various Artists [Monolithic Minds 2]

Now for something completely different, away from the usual Classical, yes i do listen to all sorts of music, and i'm always trying to delve into new forms of music, and since this little compilation looked nice, i thought i'd delve in, i played this while travelling on the bus to and from Church today, i liked the variety, of course there's a degree of monotony, but in a way that's the point of the music.

This compilation comes from Artelier Records, put together in 1998, the front cover is superb, the shoes are by Johan Von Friedrichs, sort of like a bed of nails, except for the feet, 'these shoes are killing me' is very appropriate, though of course 'whats it got to do with the music?', the black lettering underneath is excellent, very sparse, on a white background, i guess the red of the insoles have some sort of meaning eh?.

Now this is the first time i've listened to this disc, and first impressions are a bit suspect, but already i can feel that there's things to like a lot here, my second listening in the future should really reveal a lot more, on this spin i found tracks 5, 8 & 10 to be the most exciting, here's a little synopsis,
5 Friend - Rama Rally [6:37] - This has the feel of steel drums about it, love the start, sort of bleeps at the beginning, and then the strong hard drums come in, so treble that they almost sounds like a cross between drums and cymbals, there's a logical rhythm to it but the drums are all over the place, i can hear all sorts of things going on in the mix, and like layers things are added, what sounds like hollow bamboo or woodblocks [0:34+] really effective, and the low screeching comes in [1:00+], sounds like every half a minute something else is thrown in the pot for luck, and the music quietens out somewhat to reveal tribal drumming [2:50+], a really good drumming frenzy starts [3:58+], sounds like a lot of different drums trying to outdo each other, just when you think the thing is coming to an end, the thing explodes into life again [5:35+].
8 Quant - Dark Phat Fukka [5:57] - A lot more electronic, a mechanical machinery chug at first, with synth doodlings, and then drum knocking sounds come in [0:50+], really effective, it's layered nicely so that themes keep coming back in and building up into a nice frenzy, and like the last track, it comes to a close, only for the thing to explode into life again [4:15+].
10 Perphane - Ezy Modos [6:44] - Ah the opening synth sounds like the aural equivalent of 'cooee', really effective, i love it!, almost random drumming just for the sake of it, and what sounds like vinyl scratchings, lots of drum smashes and hits, and it's the synth 'cooee' that has almost the last word!.

Here's some samples on the AllMusic website, though of course 30 second samples doesn't do the album justice.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Schubert - Piano Trio 1 [The London Mozart Trio]

This is a recent acquisition, and i played it for the first time today, also i'm completely unfamiliar with The London Mozart Trio, but i really enjoyed delving into this disc today, the coupling is a curious one, and it makes me realise how much i don't know the Dvorak work as well as i should, it's Schubert's Trio 2 that i prefer out of his two, but here i marvelled at the first one, it's such a musically strong work, and played really well too.

The London Mozart Trio are a bit of a mystery, the booklet doesn't have any information on the Trio, or any of its members, they recorded this disc in 1991, the IMP classics label was a really nice one, this one has a black & white shot of the Trio, the shadows and light are terrific, there's a certain glow to the highlights, the IMP logo on the right makes a wonderful dash of colour, and the lettering in the bottom left balances out the picture nicely, visually a great product.

Well it was the big first movement i enjoyed the most, and like lots of Schubert, it's music that keeps going round and round like a carousel, one of the things i notice is the Pianist can be quite loud at times, he likes to thump them keys at times, the recording is lovely, but sometimes it has difficulty capturing the sheer dynamic range of everything, after a general introduction, all three instruments take turns playing one of the main themes [1:58-2:24], cello / violin / piano, and four minutes later it comes back again [5:46-6:13], i almost expect there to be some sort of trio section in the middle to break up the almost 15 minutes of the same themes revolving round and round, but instead Schubert uses the same themes, but slightly in a different key, or maybe it's in a different octave, some stormy passages in there, The London Mozart Trio really sustain it well.

Here's the Beaux Arts Trio playing the Schubert Piano Trio on YouTube.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Various Composers - 'Con Amore' Italian Soprano Opera Arias [Swenson/Rudel-London Symphony Orchestra]

Here's a nice little Opera Aria recital, without a Rossini in sight!, i love these compilations with a theme / programme to it, in this case it's Italian Composers, Swenson isn't the greatest i must admit, but she's very good, had this disc since 2001, and it got a fair play in it's early years, been a little neglected recently, but it's good to hear this again, i don't seem to listen to Opera Arias enough.

Ruth Ann Swenson is American, she's now 55, and she recorded this disc in 1998, the photo is a nice one [by Alex Newhall], nice and sharp, pastel colours, and really good lettering down the right side, so ten Arias in all, although there's 14 tracks, so four are split up into sections, i rubbed on letter transfers A-J to help me see where i am.

Well i guess it's the usual suspects here, the most famous Arias, i certainly enjoyed the Bellini items, he has a certain way with adding wonderful instruments, almost like having a Concerto movement at times, and 'tracks' A-E & J were my favourites, but the Aria that really touched me the most was track 7 / E 'Si, Mi Chiamano Mimi' from Puccini's La Boheme, whatever you think of Puccini, his simple melodies, his simple stories too, there's no doubt that he can move you with his music, this is one of the most touching Arias of his, after Rudolfo introduces himself to Mimi in his Aria, he asks her to tell him about her, and this is the cue for her Aria, she starts hesitatingly, and maybe a bit monotonous at first, but the lyricism soon flows, and those high notes on words of magic / love / spring [1:03-1:24], she then sings of the first rays of April's sunshine, like a kiss are hers [2:50-3:47], the high notes Swenson hits are thrilling, and also about the gentle perfume of her flowers [4:01-4:19], the whole Aria is full of heart tugs galore, you can't fail to be moved. 

Here's on Swenson singing Mimi's Aria on YouTube.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Chuck Prophet [Feast Of Hearts]

I remember first getting into this disc, back in 2003, driving in a van around London, and having this playing, and thinking 'wow!, this is a great album', i've tried to delve into other Chuck Prophet albums, but with no success, they're not a match on this once, i played this today while sitting on a park bench and writing my Journal, and what a great album it is, Prophet sings of all sorts of issues, a great life commentator, this disc has featured in my Blog quite heavily [19th March 2012 & 16th March 2013].

Chuck Prophet is American, he's now 51, wow he's even younger than me!, he has a major back catalogue of albums, and even used to have a Rock group 'Green On Red', he recorded this in 1995 [happy 20th birthday!], i'm not sure what he's been up to since, i hear he's got a new album out, this one has the most stunning front cover booklet [photo by Kim Stringfellow], highly coloured, it's that flowery shirt that does it, great use of Autumn colours, the motel room [i guess] is a sickly yellow, looks quite psychedelic really, the face is rather a sickly yellow too, somewhat washed out, dark shadow lines on the left, wonder if the whole thing has been touched up with dayglo colours, and a great use of lettering emblazoned across his chest, i love the finished product, it almost shouts out that this album was composed in a load of motel rooms while travelling the country.

On this listening i really loved tracks 1, 8 & 10, and i would like to talk deeper about each one,
1 What it Takes - The album opener, and it's a nice rocker, nice use of twangy guitar, nice little mid instrumental where Prophet shouts 'here i go' [1:48-2:02], best lyric 'Before the fools-golden sun, sets on your million dollar view'.
8 Oh Mary - My favourite track of the whole album, starts off with the drums, and there's such a lovely beat there, those lovely treble toms sound so good, it's a complex and off kilter drumming vibe [Michael Urbanok], i think it's the drums and bass that make it sound sort of funky, it really makes the whole track, plus it's a great tune also, the second verses lyrics are great 'i followed you through the churchyard, down your crooked path', when he sings 'churchyard', in comes the organ swirls, a nice little touch, it's incredibly catchy. 
10 Madam Rosa's - About a Brothel run by Madam Rosa, starts off with what sounds like a national guitar, nice and dull sound, again a great tune, great beat, great use of strumming guitars too, best lyric 'with so many rooms to hide in, and only the light of the moon to follow you around'.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Various Composers - 'Pastoral' British Clarinet Music [Johnson/Martineau]

A well played disc, one that i've had for nearly 20 years, and yet this is its first appearance in my Blog, it's great to have a recital of clarinet music that features one aspect of it, there's a cohesion here, however some of the shorter trifles could have been ejected [the Bliss and Vaughan Williams vocal stuff], and filled with something more appropriate, the silky tones of the clarinet are wonderful to behold, if i was to take up an instrument, apart from the piano, it would either be the clarinet or the soprano saxophone [very similar], it works in Classical and Jazz perfectly, plus it's so easily portable, and works as a satisfying solo instrument too, i love the clarinet.

Emma Johnson is English, she's now 48, she recorded this disc in 1994, the booklet front cover is a black & white portrait [by Robert Barber], a wood in the background out of focus, of course the focuses all the more on the foreground, a half body shot, with Johnson holding her clarinet.

The three pieces that really got to me on this listen were the two solo movement works, Ireland's Fantasy Sonata, and Bliss's Pastoral, but the work that moved me the most was the darling little suite of English Folk Song Studies by Vaughan Williams, six pieces here lasting a little over nine minutes, Vaughan Williams was a champion of folk songs of England, and here he chooses six to set to Cello and Piano, however Clarinet players seem to have hijacked the piece, i hardly ever hear it played by other instruments now, so here's a synopsis of these six little pieces, with the original folk song they came from, 

1 Adagio / Lovely On The Water [1:48] - A slow piece as an introduction, using the deeper registers of the clarinet, while the piano slowly moves higher into the treble, towards the end there's a solo clarinet section. 
2 Andante Sostenuto / Spurn Poin [1:30] - Something more tuneful, and achingly so, and it's a beautiful duet, the way first the piano plays the tune higher in the treble, then the clarinet [0:37 & 0:44], and the piece ends ever so gently on a long note, [where 'sostenuto' in the title comes from].
3 Larghetto / Van Diemans Land [1:51] - A more ancient sounding melody, and the longest piece of the six, kept within the lower registers in the first half, but the second half has a tendency to soar.
4 Lento / She Borrowed Some Of Her Mothers Gold [1:22] - A more complex use of the clarinet, and the piano explodes into action [0:33+], at the end a very high sustained note.
5 Andante Tranquillo / The Lady And The Dragoon [1:30] - The most easily lyrical of the six, and my personal favourite by miles, it has the most gorgeous melody ever, played simply at first, very Irish sounding, but then added all sorts of complexities to it in such a wonderful way [0:30+], and even the piano gets a little solo while the clarinet accompanies [1:00+]
6 Allegro Vivace / As I Walked Over London Bridge [0:51] - The shortest of the six, and a finale of sorts, marked 'vivace', a skippy little tune, it bounces along in both the clarinet and piano in a staccato way, and it comes to an abrupt end on a piano note.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Various Composers - 'Nocturne' Piano encores [Oppitz]

This is one of the very best piano solo compilation discs i have in my collection, a great and varied selection of things, varied selection of composers too, and Oppitz finds his way off the beaten track, into some less well known pieces, but no Schubert or Brahms?, also the title of the disc 'Nocturne', i really don't understand how that fits in with some of the pieces, nevertheless it's not the title i listened to, really enjoyed this today, this disc appeared in my Blog three years ago [24th May 2012].

Gerhard Oppitz is German, he's now 62, this disc was recorded in 1993, the booklet cover shows a black & white portrait of Oppitz [by Alfred Steffen], caught as a silhouette on the left side, great use of a lot of black, and yet a white background to bring out the contrast, the lettering could have been better, but all round a wonderful finished product.

On this listen i loved track 12 the most, Faure's Noctune 4, this originally got me into Faure's solo piano music, it's the best thing on the disc, and probably Faure's best Nocturne, in a blind test i feel you could slip it into a set of Chopin's Nocturnes and nobody would notice!, maybe a cross between Chopin's 4 and 8, a simple enough tune i guess, but a beautiful one too, the 'theme' is restated i guess an octave higher in the right hand [0:59+] with great effect, but then comes a huge middle section [1:57+], which is a lot more interesting than the opening, with some tender moments, the music falls down the keyboard, the left hand produces a lovely accompanying rhythm, the Nocturne is in E Flat Major, but changes to E Flat Minor, you can feel the dip into the sadness / melancholy, the right hand producing the sound of tolling of bells, but like Chopin his nocturnes are not all gentle, there's stormy central episodes, and so it is here, the music develops into something a bit more angry [3:02+], some great use of loud notes high in the treble, the music reaches some impassioned climaxes as some points [4:10-4:35], i love the way Faure quietens down the music ready for the transition back to the opening [5:14+], but it's not a simple restatement and end, Faure adds a sort of coda of sorts onto the end, and there's i guess this sort of epilogue [6:45+], at the very end there's this melody gently rumbled in the bass [7:53-8:03], a great end to a really ingenious piece of piano music.

Here's Nathan Chim playing Faure's Nocturne 4 on YouTube.