New CD + DVD set: “Jazz & The Philharmonic,” recorded in Miami, dozens of performers doing a lovely job with jazz, classical (with a modern twist), traditional music, beautifully produced and engineered. You may have seen it on PBS—last February—but if you are among the many millions who missed out, this is a gift that you might consider for this year’s holiday season. Notably, it is one of the last recorded works supervised by Phil Ramone, whose list of credits is among the most impressive in American music history.
Want a sample? Try “Simple Gifts,” a theme that you will recognize from Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” The performance (Mark O’Connor on violin, Dave Grusin at the piano) and the recording are spectacular.
Also on the web page (click on above), a straight ahead performance of Johnny Mercer’s “Autumn Leaves” by Bobby McFerrin with some solid scat. (Later, on “Soloings,” McFerrin plays with his voice and the audience.) Backing McFerrin on “Autumn Leaves” is Grusin, Chick Corea, and The Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra (they are the “Philharmonic” in this concert). Corea returns for “Spanish Suite,” based upon the familiar classical work by Joaquin Rodrigo, “Concerto de Aranjuez.” It’s easy to forget how terrific Corea can be—this is a lovely setting for his piano work. The wonderful trumpet player Terence Blanchard (he is the Mancini Institute’s Artistic Director) contributes an interesting duet with vocalist Eric Owens on Bach’s “Fugue in C Major.,” then joins in on “Spanish Suite,” and later, on “Solfeggietto” by C.P.E. Bach. It’s great to hear this work performed with soloists and a full orchestra—reminds me of the good old days when the Boston Pops showed up with celebrity soloists on public TV.
For me, this concert was an introduction to a modern classical piano player named Elizabeth Joy Roe. She performers with Blanchard on “Solfeggietto,” and with Mancini director Shelly Berg on a piano duet version of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love.” Curious, I looked her up. Roe records classic music for Deutsche Gramophone, but she’s unique because she often performs duets. Not just any songs—an intriguing combination of Michael Jackson, ragtime and classical. Her version—on her website, not on the Jazz & The Philharmonic CD/DVD includes an all-out duet with Greg Anderson on Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The video is as much fun as the piano work. Watch this (now)! She’s someone I want to know more about.
Okay—sorry—easily distracted by great music—back to the main story. What have I missed? Actually, one track, and it’s terrific. It’s called “Mountain Dance,” and it’s performed by Grusin and O’Connor with the Mancini Orchestra. Why terrific? It feels great, especially on a fine-tuned stereo system where the bass is as clear as the high notes. Again, a tribute to a recording that sounds much better than most.
There’s more on the DVD—a second McFerrin “Soloings”, another piece by Chick Corea entitled “Armadas Rhumba,” and, why not, a rousing version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (you know, the “2001: A Space Odyssey” theme).