Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Rebranding himself simply as Yundi, the Chinese pianist moves to EMI with the promise of a complete Chopin series. Produced by his former DG team (Christopher Alder/Klaus Hiemann), these Nocturne recordings were completed in a Zurich church during January. The sound is resonant but clean, wide in dynamic range – and preferable to that in last month’s Freire/Decca set. The two pianists are most divergent in the Lisztian Op.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 09, 2010
Yes, an LP of the CD I’ve been boring you with for six years. While probably a digital original, the album lends itself beautifully to the analogue medium because it’s just so damned rich: perfectly-recorded piano; fluid guitar, Dobro and bass; Keb’ Mo’s textured vocals. This was his ‘covers album’, the bluesman choosing nine peace ’n’ love folk and rock classics, mainly from the 1960s, like ‘Get Together’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’. They serve as a statement that’s as relevant in 2010 as when the songs were new.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
One could say that the Janet Baker/Barbirolli EMI recording prompted reappraisal of the Sea Pictures, and this live alternative (first published in an earlier LPO set) is an affecting reminder of her unique vocal timbre and musical commitment. From the same 1984 RFH concert, taped by Capital Radio, the First Symphony finds Vernon Handley with ‘the bit between his teeth’, skimming 3m 30s from his 1979 CfP timing with the London Philharmonic, and missing in particular the tender inwardness of the Adagio. Other writers have welcomed this more bitter account; I stand by the 1956 Barbirolli/Hallé Elgar First [SJB1017]. Sound Quality: 70% .
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Still possibly best known for his work with the late Max Roach, here the muscular tenor player has assembled his own absolutely stellar octet. While Wynton Marsalis alumnus Walter Blanding brings in a wily, fluid tenor, James Carter adds a stirring and gutsy baritone sax, and the ebullient trumpets are David Weiss and Terell Stafford. Behind pianist George Burton and bassist Lee Smith is the drive of Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. This line-up produces some wonderfully buoyant ensemble playing, not least on a stomping, pedal-point opener that sounds a bit like the start of Janáček’s Sinfonietta.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
After last month’s Nowhere Boy, a sequel (with Backbeat in-between) in the life of John Lennon. This BBC effort caused controversy, everyone acknowledging Eccleston’s remarkable performance, with some bitching that he’s too old for the part. Nonsense! He looks more like Lennon than any other actor who’d played him before. More pertinent is the way the story plays fast and loose with the facts, featuring more of Lennon’s errant father than actually may have happened.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
There are parallels with the 1970s Kovacevich cycle: keen young Beethoven pianist (students respectively of Myra Hess/Alfred Brendel) partnered with older, principal conductor of the BBC SO – though Colin Davis had the LSO for No. 5. Both soloists opt for glissando octaves at the recapitulation of 1(i), and play the longer Beethoven cadenzas in Nos. 1 and 4.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
A live album can be special, even if it’s not quite the complete concert you expect. This one takes four numbers cut in late 2004 at the Sunside club in Paris and artfully stirs in three 2009 tracks from London’s 606 Club. It was in ’87, after four years with Art Blakey, that an assignment at the Guildhall School brought Toussaint to the UK, and he never went back. His quartet here includes the distinctive British pianist Andrew McCormack, while guitarist Jerome Barde contributes nice solos to two of the Paris tracks.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010
I fondly remember the thrill of hearing the band’s eponymous 1976 debut album, so I wished for something a little more exciting from their first reunion in eight years. Petty has attempted to get back to his roots by writing a bunch of blues and r’n’b flavoured songs but, although things start well with the punchy ‘Jefferson Jericho Blues’, a drift towards pastiche sets in fast and there’s a lack of energy that no amount of laidback finesse can replace. ‘Candy’, for example, is entertaining but insubstantial, just another reworking of the venerable Memphis riff with Petty overdoing his down home vocal. More passion and a little less journeyman cool would be welcome here.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
It’s odd to find Sony, in promoting its young Classical Brit award-winning violinist, issuing recordings made as long ago as December 2007. And the resonant Potton Hall acoustic doesn’t add sweetness to the high register of Liebeck’s Guadagnini instrument – although he’s somewhat favoured in the balance, at forte the piano sounds lunge forward. There’s no doubting his sincerity and engagement with the music but, as with their earlier Dvořák sonatas on Sony (coupled with a lacklustre production of the Violin Concerto), it’s the highly developed artistry of pianist Katya Apekisheva that holds the attention more. Sound Quality: 65% .
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
After long pursuit of their separate careers, the three Heath Brothers first played under that name in 1975. Percy Heath, the MJQ’s revered bass player, died in 2005, and so the younger brothers, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, dedicated Endurance to his memory. With the youthful Jeb Patton on piano and David Wong on bass they get things moving on the restless chords of ‘Changes’. Later, an evocative ‘Autumn In New York’ seems to waltz gently in 4/4, and then Jimmy is beautifully reflective in ‘Ballad From Leadership Suite’, which he wrote for the inauguration of a Howard University president in 1996.