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.
As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare."
Admirers of Sir Yehudi Menuhin will be pleased to have this compilation of his early stereo recordings of the major violin concertos. I have always enjoyed his version of the Bach Double Concerto with Christian Ferras; it rightly dominated the catalogue throughout the 1960s, and the spirited baroque vitality of the performance, plus a beautifully judged central Largo, give great satisfaction. Moreover, it demonstrates what a good sound balance Peter Andry and Neville Boyling could achieve in London's Kingsway Hall in 1959.
Although undoubtedly an expensive acquisition, this ten-CD set is perfectly done and contains dozens of gems. The remarkable but short-lived trumpeter Clifford Brown has the second half of his career fully documented (other than his final performance) and he is showcased in a wide variety of settings. The bulk of the numbers are of Brownie's quintet with co-leader and drummer Max Roach, either Harold Land or Sonny Rollins on tenor, pianist Richie Powell, and bassist George Morrow (including some previously unheard alternate takes), but there is also much more.
This disc continues Thomas Demenga's project of juxtaposing Bach cello suites with contemporary compositions—by Elliott Carter (12/90), Heinz Holliger, and now Sandor Veress, whose music we can hear growing out of, and away from, its neo-classical roots in Bach's polyphony.
Ushering in a new golden era for the flute as solo instrument, Jean-Pierre Rampal secured his place in the classical music firmament as the greatest flautist of the modern era. Over 25 years (1954-1982), the French virtuoso’s fruitful collaboration with Erato grew into a truly exceptional achievement in recording history: an encyclopedia of flute music in vital performances that have remained the benchmark for generations. The first complete reissue of these recordings represents the most important collection ever dedicated to a single flautist. After all, it was Jean-Pierre Rampal that taught us to love the flute.
Originally recorded in stereo in 1978 and 1979 and released on two separate LPs, these performances of Bach's Orchestral Suites (also known as the Overtures) with Trevor Pinnock leading his English Consort were as good as it got at the time for period instrument performances. And this 2007 single-disc re-release does not change that assessment. The Consort's strings are dry but warm – check out the Air from the Third Suite – the winds are colorful and quirky – check out the Forlane from the First Suite – the brass is controlled but cutting – check out the Ouverture from the Fourth Suite – and the timpani is vivacious but thankfully not overwhelming – check out the Réjouissance, also from the Fourth Suite. Pinnock's conducting is almost universally light and lively, and when it's not in the Second Suite, it's because the music itself is dark and dreary. Although there are dozens of great performances of the suites to choose from, if you're only going to have one recording on the shelf, it should be Pinnock's.(James Leonard)