Sometimes these previously unreleased, newly discovered albums turn out to be something of a disappointment; lots of hype over a recording session or concert that was probably left in the vault for good reason. That's not the case here. Palo Alto, a live recording from October 1968, captures Thelonious Monk's quarter with tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse on a really good night. or in this case, a really good afternoon.
The concert was planned by a sixteen year-old schoolboy named Danny Scher, who arranged to invite Monk to play at his high school with the noble aim of promoting racial equality and raising money for his school. The concert very nearly failed to take place. There were concerns that Monk would never show, and tickets sales were slow at first. There was also a last-minute scramble to arrange transportation for the band, who had another gig to go to that evening.
No matter. Monk appeared, and so did the crowds. At 47 minutes, it's a short set, but the band are on fire, and there's a warmth and vibrancy to the playing throughout. The album opens with a delightful version of Monk's romantic Ruby My Dear, with Rouse on fine form, delivering a lyrical solo. There's a rousing version of Well You Needn't, which is quite superb. Note the fine support from Monk as Rouse solos, before the pianist takes over. There's a lengthy bowed bass solo by Larry Gales, who sings along as he solos, Jarrett-style, before drummer Ben Riley comes in with a lively solo of his own. Don't Blame Me by Jimmy McHugh features Monk alone, and even the out-of-tune piano cannot detract from the enjoyment.
After a delay of a few weeks, the album will be released on Impulse! on September 18th.
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Tom Schnabel's KCRW: Los Angeles - Rhythm Planet playlist picks this week cover a range of new releases and enduring classics that he has returned to repeatedly for emotional and spiritual sustenance. We start with superstar pianist Lang Lang. If you're a fan of Bach's Goldberg Variations and love Glenn Gould's iconic versions-either the 1955 or 1981 sessions-then I recommend checking out Lang Lang's new set. I chose one of the most uncannily difficult variations here. Listening will make you wonder how his hands and fingers can move so quickly!
"This is a very important dream-come-true moment", says Lang Lang. The superstar pianist, who waited 20 years before playing Johann Sebastian Bach's monumental composition in public, has finally achieved his goal of recording the Goldberg Variations. The result of two decades of deep study and personal reflection, his vision of Bach's Aria and 30 Variations is out now on Deutsche Grammophon.
Lang Lang marked the global release of the new album with a special introduction from the historic Temple (東景緣, Dongjingyuan) in Beijing – site of the old imperial printing house and a former Buddhist shrine, meticulously renovated in recent years to preserve its multi-layered history. The pianist performed extracts from the Goldberg Variations and talk about the intense personal connection he feels to Bach's music, as well as answering questions from fans.
Also available from today is a super deluxe edition featuring not only Lang Lang's studio recording but a performance captured live in concert at Leipzig's St. Thomas Church, where the composer worked and is buried. This coupling of studio and live recordings, a world first for the "Goldbergs", offers fascinating insights into the art of interpretation. Lang Lang's performances intensify the work's breath-taking blend of contrapuntal complexity, diverse musical styles and life-affirming spontaneity.
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On the 13th of March 2017, Tommy LiPuma died at the age of 80. The Grammy-adorned producer had, one year prior, began work on a new album for his protege Diana Krall. The Canadian singer was therefore left to mix the record entirely alone...
The calibre of musician on this record is impressive: guitarists Russell Malone and Anthony Wilson, bassists John Clayton and Christian McBride, drummer Karriem Riggins and Bob Dylan's bassist, Tony Garnier, all come along to finish off the recording of This Dream of You. A great fan of Dylan, Krall used a song name from his 2009 album Together Through Life as the title of this 15th album released by Verve. Whether in duet, trio or quartet, Madame Costello plays and sings in diverse contexts but ultimately returns to her preferred repertoire: the Great American Songbook. The standards that have come to be expected a thousand times over are met as if by magic. Autumn in New York by Vernon Duke, How Deep is the Ocean by Irving Berlin and the unmistakeable Singing in the Rain by Gene Kelley as well as other classics from giants like Sinatra and Nat King Cole become her own.
A whisper, a murmur, a refined arrangement, an instrumental treasure, Diana Krall prevails time after time.
One could fault her for not daring to re-imagine the songs more, but when the standard of these renditions is so high and of such depth, we can do nothing but yield and wonder. Also note that for the first time, Diana Krall's face doesn't appear on the album cover!
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This 1969 concert by the Thelonious Monk Quartet was produced by a high school student and recorded by his school's janitor. Its publicity posters were printed up by the Palo Alto High School Graphic Arts Department. The janitor, we are told, received permission (but from whom?) to tape the concert as a reward for his having tuned the piano. Before the concert, only a few tickets were sold, but then a crowd gathered outside the school. People wanted to see Monk and the two opening acts, but didn't necessarily believe that the great pianist/composer would show up. After all he was appearing that night in a club in San Francisco.
Remarkably he did appear, and in a good mood, with his oft-recorded quartet of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley. Equally remarkably the recorded sound, in stereo, is excellent. Its main flaw is the close recording of the drum set, but even that is interesting. That janitor, whose very existence I somehow doubt, had skills. In Palo Alto, Monk played his standard set: four of his most famous originals, the ballad "Don't Blame Me" and, as an encore, a mini-version on solo piano of "I Love You Sweetheart of My Dreams," an obscure song that was introduced into the repertoire by Rudy Vallee and promptly forgotten by everyone but Monk, who used it repeatedly as a short finishing touch to his concerts. (There are a pair of mini versions on his Paris 1969 concert recordings.) At the end, Monk tells the crowd he'd like to play more for them but: "We have to hurry back and get to work, you dig?"
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"The roughest thing is my mom," composer and bandleader Maria Schneider says over the phone on a recent summer morning, answering the first question of almost every conversation in the COVID-19 era: How are you holding up? The New York-based composer/conductor has been in grateful, high gear, safe and healthy at her country home while preparing the release of a new two-record set by the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Data Lords. But Schneider, who grew up in the small farming town of Windom, Minnesota, misses her mother, who's turning 96 in Minneapolis, "in a place where nobody can visit her because they're protecting people.
"And that's good," Schneider goes on. "But I had this dream where I was in a hotel trying to see her and the elevator went to a negative-50th floor and I couldn't get back to her." She laughs brightly, something she does often in conversation. "I woke up and thought, ‘Well, I know what that's about: When am I going to see Mom again?'
Schneider, 59, will not see the road or be in the same room with her orchestra any time soon. But she is pressing forward with Data Lords, her first album since 2015's The Thompson Fields, out via ArtistShare, the fan-funding platform that has issued her work since 2004's Grammy-winning Concert in the Garden. Consisting of 11 pieces over 97 minutes, Data Lords is a boldly conceptual immersion in a critical duality of modern life, now compounded by truly viral calamity: the corporate and political manipulation of our internet addictions (the first disc, subtitled The Digital World) and the endangered wonder and sanctuary around us, made even more remote by lockdown (the second disc, The Natural World).
"I was just writing," Schneider says of the album's thematic genesis. "It's what I always do-write music, then think, ‘It's time to record again.'" But it was "a struggle" to make sense of the growing "hodgepodge" until visual artist Justin Freed, a friend and ArtistShare participant, suggested she make two albums. "I started analyzing the music, analyzing myself: ‘You're thinking about Google a bit too much, girl. And here I can tell you spent some time weeding and watching your bluebirds' nest.' I thought, ‘Wow, this is the struggle, the yin and yang of our life.'" (photo: Briene Lermitte)
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In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA. In a series of twists and turns, against a backdrop of racial tension and political volatility, that concert was recorded by the school's janitor and finally released in 2020.
Verve Presents: Monk Goes To School tells this story in innovative detail, interweaving the voices of Danny Scher, Thelonius Monk's son T.S. Monk, monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley and engineer/mixer Grandmixer DXT with narrator Anthony Valadez from KCRW.
The podcast is unique in that there is no hosted interview segment – it takes the listener on an immersive journey featuring the voices of the cast, sound design and music clips from the record throughout.
Verve/Impulse! Records and podcast creative studio PopCult are pleased to announce Verve Presents: Monk Goes To School, an innovative podcast that tells the story of Thelonious Monk's storied visit, concert, and subsequent recording at Palo Alto High School in 1968. The Podcast is available on all major platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, and more. Listen to the podcast HERE.
The album Palo Alto was released on September 18
PopCult Founder/Creative Director Dennis Scheyer says, "Once we heard the story of how the record came to be we felt that it deserved more than the usual ‘interview-based' portrayal. It's the kind of show we created our company to produce, and Verve fully supported us."
Recorded entirely "at home" with high-quality microphones across the United States, this podcast deftly weaves through multiple voices, telling this story of Thelonious Monk, the unexpected concert, and of course, uses the music to illustrate this important part of musical history.
EVP of Verve/Impulse! Jamie Krents says, "We're thrilled to collaborate with PopCult on Monk Goes to School. This podcast brilliantly captures the real story of the Palo Alto recording, and puts it in historical context with brilliant narration from all the key players. Impulse! and Verve Records have such a rich history of music that we're very excited to continue to illustrate in partnership with PopCult."
PopCult Partner, Strategy and Marketing Lars Murray says, "We were excited to help Verve establish a leadership position among labels by creating a high-quality narrative podcast that integrates their music seamlessly and tells a great story about a landmark release. Verve demonstrated that a label's access to licensed music is a huge advantage in podcasting."
Palo Alto – Thelonious Monk
Ruby, My Dear
Well, You Needn't
Don't Blame Me
I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams
John Finbury started out as a drummer while in high school. Today, he is an established pianist and composer who has offered a variety of music to my listening room. I've heard his original compositions lyrically enriched by Thalma De Freitas, (a Brazilian vocalist and lyricist) on an album titled "Sorte". It was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. Finbury won another Latin Grammy nomination in 2016 (in the ‘Song of The Year' category) for a piece he penned on his "Imaginario" album. On his "Quatro" album, that I reviewed in 2019, he was celebrating cultural diversity and immigration, employing Peruvian and Mexican music styles in his compositions. There was an activist cry for freedom and justice in the songs he composed. John Finbury, the composer, has immersed himself in Latin music until this project. His current release is a complete surprise. This album eliminates the percussive rhythms and Latin energy he has been noted for in the past. Here is an album of Chamber Music, with jazz over-tones that twine their way into his production. A nocturne is music that reflects a romantic or dreamy quality. To achieve this, Finbury uses no bass or drums at all during these lovely arrangements. Instead, John features accordion, piano, guitar, harmonica and cello. Speaking of cello, Eugene Friesen gives us a dynamic and emotional rendering during his cello work on Track 5, "Fantasma," as does the sweet harmonica work of Roni Eytan. Peter Eldridge adds his vocalise on this tune.
Another favorite of mine is "Black Tea." Notably, I didn't miss the bass and drums at all. The melodic content of these songs is elegant, classical and the arrangements are relaxing to the ear. Finbury gives us a taste of his piano prowess on the final tune, performing solo on "Waltz for Patty." As a unit, these gifted musicians offer us a platter-full of beautifully played "American Nocturnes" that celebrate John Finbury's delicious composing skills. He warmly serves up a romantic project titled, the "Final Days of July" for our consumption.
In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA.
Violinist Daniel Hope spent his period of social distancing by performing chamber concerts online from his living room in Berlin with specially invited guests including Christoph Israel, Till Brönner, Matthias Goerne and more.
World-renowned singer-songwriter Melody Gardot announces her long-awaited new album along with the release of a highly anticipated single which sees her join forces with 17-time Grammy Award winning music icon Sting.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT - Anna Shelest was born in Ukraine. She moved to the United States when she was just 15 to study at the Juilliard School of music. She and her husband, Dmitri, are U.S. citizens now, and they live in New York City with their two little boys. When she's not performing as a soloist, Anna and Dmitri are seated at the piano performing works for four hands. Later this year, they'll release a recording featuring Ukrainian music. In the meantime, Anna is celebrating the release of her newest solo CD featuring the first two piano concertos by one of her favorite composers, Sergei Prokofiev.
Anna has an affinity for Russian composers. And here's why: "I think it's the music of my childhood, and the older I get we understand that those relationships you forge when you're a child with people and culture and language and music is staying with you and is really deepening as I grow older," she says. "So Prokofiev especially is a composer I remember from my childhood as the first composer I loved listening to. So there's a little bit of that sentiment of feeling like a kid again when I play his music. And just being educated in what is often referred to as the Russian piano school, of course Russian music was a very big part of it, so I always had some kind of Russian composers in my fingers."
Which piece by Prokofiev first fascinated you as a child? "The first piece was 'Cinderella'," Anna says. "I had the LP record of the ballet with narration and I played this recording often before going to bed. I remember even now how I felt listening to that music. And since that time, Prokofiev's music, especially his orchestral music, I think it's so magical because of the imagination that is so colorful … the child's imagination."
So, what sparks your imagination about his first piano concerto? "It's the most fun concerto in the whole of the repertoire," Anna says. "It's like a party for orchestra and pianist. It's really not a serious piece. It's all jokes and fun times.
"If I think about my son who is 4 years old and the way he thinks and talks - he's always happy and making jokes," Anna continues. "And it's this youthful energy and very imaginative way you see the world. [Prokofiev] was 19 years old when he wrote this piece. It's really remarkable to think that he was a complete artist, a complete visionary when he made this piece."
Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 is very different; can you talk about how it contrasts from the first concerto? "The original score was lost during the Revolution and then he revised the work in Paris in 1923, I believe," Anna explains. "But I think in the music it can be viewed through an historic context as a commentary of the time - a very dark, tragic time for humanity. So I think with this concerto … when I first learned it 14 years ago, I viewed it as a very virtuosic piece and this is something that it's famous for - it's very acrobatic piano playing. But the longer I played it the more I'm aware of how deep this music goes and it really tackles very kind of tragic human emotions."
The first movement of the second concerto builds to an incredibly extensive cadenza that takes a lot of endurance. Anna says it accomplishes a very important dramatic goal, "As a pianist, you have to be constantly climbing up - higher and higher and by the time you get to the middle of the cadenza, you've exhausted all your resources and still you have to take 10 more flights. And I think if you're really able to plan this climb it has such an important and powerful dramatic effect, it makes the listener forget about how difficult the technical aspect of it is and really see it as very important point, dramatic point, of the piece. And the longer that I play the concerto and especially as you play it live and you're able to live through the music, I think the cadenza is a catalyst for the rest of the concerto."
The intermezzo, the third movement, of the Piano Concerto No. 2 was once described by Richter as the image of Goya's Saturn devouring his son. I asked Anna if she identifies with that image? "Yes, I absolutely love this description," she says. "I think it really describes the feeling. Also my way of describing it is maybe it's a movement of a very charismatic villain - somebody who is funny and sarcastic but at the same it's not a good person speaking, it's the darkness that is presented in that movement. It's very kind of twisted humor. It's really fun to become that character when playing the concerto. I think I have the most fun when I play this movement in the concerto."
Prokofiev once said, "To write only according to the rules laid down by classical composers of the past means to be only a pupil and not a master." Prokofiev was a master. According to Anna, he was well aware of his greatness. "He was by no means a modest man," she says. "As a child, a lot of his classmates didn't like him because he would point out their mistakes. But in a way the artist's role is to challenge us and to open new horizons. Prokofiev already in his time he was expected, even by people who weren't completely open to his style of music, they couldn't help but be enchanted by his charisma and the great vision he had for the sounds."
Anna Shelest offers her enchanting vision of Prokofiev's first two piano concertos with the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and Niels Muus conducting.
This week on New Classical Tracks, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Anna Shelest's recordings of Sergei Prokofiev's piano concertos No. 1 and 2. Winners will be drawn at random. Be sure to enter by midnight CDT on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016.
Anna Shelest's first release featuring virtuosic repertoire by women composers from the last three centuries. The program sheds light on the under-explored territory of piano repertoire and makes the case that the music of female composers, many of whom were virtuoso pianists, is as relevant today as the music of their male counterparts. Works by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Cecile Chaminade, Amy Beach, Lili Boulanger, and Chiayu Hsu.
Sorel Classics has released a new recording of Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.1, in D flat, Op.10 and Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16 (SC CD006), performed by pianist Anna Shelest, with the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Niels Muus, conductor. Sergei Prokofiev began composing his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, Op. 10, in 1911 and finished it in 1912. A one-movement concerto, it is the shortest of his five complete piano concertos, lasting only around a quarter of an hour. Sergei Prokofiev began work on his Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16, in 1912 and completed it in 1913. But this concerto was lost; the score was apparently destroyed in a fire following the Russian Revolution. Prokofiev reconstructed the work in 1923, and dedicated it to the memory of Maximilian Schmidthof, a friend of the composer's at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
10 Total 62 TOTAL
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The Sorel Charitable Organization celebrates the launch of pianist Anna Shelest's latest CD, Spirit and Romance, a selection of works by Bach, Liszt, Schubert, Wagner, Busoni and Schumann, as the inaugural album of Sorel's latest initiative, Sorel Classics, a non profit record label devoted to highlighting the talent and achievements of female singers, instrumentalists, and composers of classical music. Ms. Shelest is the first artist chosen to record under the new label. Having already been dubbed "the female incarnation of Liszt" and described as an artist of "fiery sensibility and warm touch" by The New York Times, Ms. Shelest first came to the attention of Sorel after a Carnegie Hall performance as first prize winner of the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition.
19 NEW 125 Total
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