Here is the 12th volume in the complete chronological recordings of Lionel Hampton as reissued by the Classics label. It opens with Hamp's final five recordings for the MGM label, waxed in Los Angeles on October 17, 1951. This was a 20-piece big band using charts written by Quincy Jones, and the music it made feels much different from what's to be heard in the next leg of Lionel Hampton's odyssey, a Norman Granz-produced quartet session with Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich, recorded in New York on September 2, 1953. While the big band sides are exciting and fun, with a hip vocal by Sonny Parker on "Don't Flee the Scene Salty" and a singalong routine led by Hamp on "Oh Rock," the quartet swings cohesively, stretching out for six, seven or nearly eleven minutes, for the LP era had begun and Norman Granz encouraged extended improvisations. The combination of Oscar Peterson and Lionel Hampton, whether cooking together on "Air Mail Special" or savoring the changes of a ballad like "The Nearness of You" made spirits to soar and sparks to fly.
Back in New York after three years spent gigging and recording in Europe, a mature and rejuvenated James Moody resumed the endless North American scuffle to get by as a contemporary jazz musician. Volume five in the Classics James Moody chronology presents 16 rare Mercury recordings made between October 1951 and June 1953, followed by eight Prestige titles from January and April, 1954. The first four tracks feature baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne; high points include the rowdy, bristling "Moody's Home" and "Wiggle Waggle," an R&B rocker that sounds like something right up out of the King record catalog. Beginning with the material recorded on May 21, 1952, Moody is heard leading a group largely composed of players who, like him, had worked in Dizzy Gillespie's big band. Two of these individuals – trumpeter Dave Burns and baritone saxophonist Numa "Pee Wee" Moore – show up regularly in the front line of Moody's excellent recording ensembles between 1952 and 1955.
Marvin Hamlisch's first feature film score – written while he was still a college student – remains one of the great debuts in soundtrack history: a work of remarkable maturity, 1968's The Swimmer is rich in contrast and scope, communicating the film's uncommon emotional complexity in stunningly clear detail. Hamlisch proves a master of both style and mood, shifting effortlessly from the poignant simplicity of the main theme to the effervescent jazz cut "Easy Four/Bubbles" to the soaring orchestral flourishes of "Hurdles." Like the new generation of filmmakers who redefined American cinema in the late '60s and early '70s, Hamlisch achieves a note-perfect balance between tradition and innovation, acknowledging the past masters of movie music even as he expands the parameters of the form. Film Score Monthly's superlative reissue includes excellent liner notes and a series of stills from the film. Highly recommended.
The performances heard on this recording by the superstar duo of violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Martha Argerich do not exactly form a discrete group: the first work, Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105, was recorded live in 1998, while the rest consists of 2016 studio recordings. The 1998 performance, however, was part of a concert in Saratoga Springs, New York, that provided the stimulus for the joint recording. The Schumann sonata performance was not released at that time, and the rest of the program expands on the music it presents. It's nice to have the Schumann, which has a good deal of tension and energy. As for the rest, it's hard to point to a clear decline in the skills of either of the septuagenarian performers.
Borodin’s splendid epic of Old Russia was recorded in Paris in 1966 with the forces of Sofia National Opera, conducted by Polish-born Jerzy Semkow, a protégé of the legendary Russian maestro Yevgeny Mravinsky. The great Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff, a master of vocal characterisation, takes two roles: Prince Igor’s wicked brother-in-law Prince Galitsky and the surprisingly benign Khan Konchak, who famously commands his people, the Polovtsy, to dance for his noble Russian prisoner of war.