Posts Tagged ‘Broadway’

Terry Waldo: The Soul of Ragtime

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

TerryWaldo_TheSoulOfRagtimeThe soul of Ragtime found in rags, marches, opera and more

Though Ragtime’s syncopation and polyrhythmic marches often conjure turn-of-the-twentieth-century nostalgia, it’s shown itself to be a terrifically hearty music. Jazz musicians revived the Ragtime canon in the 1940s, and many of the British Invasion’s brightest lights started out in Trad Jazz bands that played Ragtime selections. Even more strikingly, the 1970s saw Scott Joplin’s profile elevated by records, awards, and in 1974 (nearly sixty years after his passing) a Top 5 chart hit for “The Entertainer.” The latter achievement also pigeonholed Ragtime in the public consciousness as old-timey music, and obscured the breadth of its offerings in two-steps and fox trots in both instrumental and vocal forms.

Terry Waldo began his exploration of Dixieland and Ragtime in the 1960s and his radio serial This is Ragtime, and a book of the same title, were centerpieces of the 1970s revival. He’s continued to champion the music’s history and promote its on-going vitality with new compositions and recordings, live performances (both solo and with his Gotham City Jazz Band), and as a teacher. His latest album combines newly composed tunes with classics of the repertoire and songs brought to Ragtime by Waldo’s deft ears and fingers. Waldo draws material from gospel, Broadway, early jazz, marches, and perhaps most surprising, nineteenth-century opera. The latter, from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, is a somber piece whose relationship to Ragtime is revealed in its lighter final minute.

Waldo shines on the album’s wide range of rags, including the original “Turkish Rondo Rag” and “Ragtime Ralph,” but the album’s biggest surprises are in tunes not famously known as piano rags. John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever” wears Waldo’s syncopation with a glee that befits the song’s joyous patriotism, and the jaunty flourishes added to “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” enliven a song typically played as a funeral dirge. Waldo reads “I’m Just Wild About Harry” in the romantic vein of its composer, Eubie Blake, rather than the upbeat band arrangements of the ’20s and ’30s, and his rendition of “The Pearls” retains the character of Jelly Roll Morton’s solo arrangement. If you think Ragtime is nothing more than a nostalgic, almost corny soundtrack for The Sting, Waldo’s deep scholarship and vital artistry will set you straight. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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Chet Baker: Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe

Friday, December 27th, 2013

ChetBaker_PlaysTheBestOfLernerAndLoeweChet Baker chills out on Broadway

This 1959 recording, the last of trumpeter Chet Baker’s albums for Riverside, was also on the leading edge of jazz artists exploring material from Broadway musicals. Shelly Manne’s My Fair Lady had made a tremendous splash in 1956, and Baker’s own Chet included tunes from Rogers & Hart and Kurt Weill. Backed here by Herbie Mann, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans and a rhythm section of Earl May and Clifford Jarvis, the interpretations are lyrical, and as you’d expect from Baker, cool. Half of the eight tracks are from My Fair Lady, and the contrasts with Manne’s interpretations are many. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” is more forlorn than delicate with its loss. “I Could Have Danced All Night” is turned from a Latin rhythm and Andre Previn’s quick fingers to the lighter mood of Mann’s woodwinds and Baker’s trumpet. “On the Street Where You Live” features the interplay of Baker’s trumpet and Adams’ baritone, and “Show Me” finds the band heating things up a bit, with Mann and Sims offering compelling solos.

The album’s four remaining titles were drawn from Brigadoon, Gigi and Paint Your Wagon. “Heather on the Hill” is more reserved than the Broadway score, losing the expectation of the original’s lyric to a drowsy backing with contemplative trumpet and flute leads. A breezy reading of “Almost Like Being in Love” reflects the lyric’s unbridled joy, and Baker’s lead on “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is more introspective than Maurice Chevaliar’s trademark performance. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about these interpretations – neither about the musicians or the music. But in a sense, that’s the album’s proposition: Frederick Loewe’s melodies are fetching, Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics give story to the instrumental leads, and the musicians play true to their usual excellent form. The 2013 reissue of this title features a 24-bit Joe Tarantino remaster of the original eight tracks, Orin Keepnews’ original liners and new notes by James Rozzi. [©2013 Hyperbolium]