Best Hits for Blog Posts, Traffic Stats

I thought my regular readers (and perhaps some new ones) would like to see how my blog is growing. About a year or so ago I posted a similar article in which I listed the articles and reviews that had received 20 or more hits, but now I’ve raised the bar. Since I’m getting much more traffic, here is a list of the posts that have received 50 or more hits, starting with the very first:

Wagner öhne wackelt – 361
The HIP Movement in Classical Music – 1,042
Alice Babs: An Appreciation – 114
Carl Orff’s Forgotten Opera – 116
Tiny Parham: The Jogo Rhythm Man – 57
Clifford Brown: The Bach of Jazz – 473
Nadia Reisenberg’s Mozart Concertos – 50
The Boogie Woogie Harpsichord of Company B – 82
Irish Girl Got the Blues – 113
Reassessing Feodor Chaliapin – 115
Dizzy’s Swinging Bands – 65
Dreams Are Nothing More Than Wishes – 163
The Mercurial Talent of Shura Cherkassky – 275
Jabbo Smith: A Study in Stubbornness – 130
Tara Helen O’Connor’s Versatile Flute – 73
A Stunning New “Rodelinda” – 50
The Greatest Soloist in the History of Jazz – 306
Piano Four Hands: Paolo & Stephanie – 186
The Great Klaus Tennstedt – 387
A Love Letter to the Boswell Sisters – 278
Two Superb Reissues by Crazy Cathy – 65
Luciano Berio’s Finale to “Turandot” – 227
Scott Wheeler’s Kaleidoscopic Piano Vignettes – 55
Henry Threadgill, Master of Musical Mosaics – 73
New Munch Reissue Flawed But Interesting – 84
The Other Side of Charles Munch – 130
Rilling’s Last Bach “Mass in B Minor” The Best – 676
Bill Evans’ “Loose Blues” Out Again on CD – 90
Bill Evans’ Lost Session Released at Last – 53
Rhorer’s “Abduction” Lively But Flawed – 55
Coltrane’s 60 Giant Steps Towards a New Jazz Style – 65
Giulini’s Venerable “Iphigénie en Tauride” a Gem – 74
Remembering Leif Segerstam in the 1970s – 631
The New Busch Trio Nails Dvořák – 63
Leon Russell, the Neglected Genius – 1,168
Frank Martin’s “Dance of Death” a Strange, Moving Work – 86
Bartók Plays Bartók: Listen, and Learn – 55
Gluzman Makes Love to Prokofiev – 71
The Pioneer of Jazz Guitar – 80
The Tender Flower of Jazz – 1,089
The Greatest Countertenor of Them All – 1,189
Quartetto Energie Nove Nails Janáček – 641
Aksel Rykkvin an Excellent Boy Treble – 441
The Legendary Wanda Landowska – 308
Ivanov’s “Dream Images” a State of Subconscious – 54
Chabrier’s “L’Etoile” An Unlucky Star – 58
Berl Senofsky Astounds in Newly-Released Recital – 71
Traveling East-West With the Janczarski-McCraven Quintet – 95
More Than Meets the Ear in Katz’ “Jailhouse Doc” – 198
The Belcea Quartet Digs Brahms! – 104
Biondi Makes Magic of Telemann – 64
Abrazo: The Havana Sessions Produce Fine Music – 62
Beekman’s Well-Crafted New CD – 58
Tindall’s Tuba Thrills in “Transformations” – 156
Weinberg’s 17th Symphony in a Great New Recording – 95
Gielen’s Brahms Insightful and Exciting – 89
Schnabel Shakes Up Books, Bottles & Bamboo in New CD – 81
Serkin’s Beethoven Concertos Top a Crowded Field – 77
Erwin Scholhoff’s Jazz-Based Piano Fantasies – 225
Mark Kaplan Pierces the Heart of Bach – 377
Eubie Blake’s “Shuffle Along” – 124
Mark Murphy’s Last Live Recording a Gem – 94
Fredrik Ullén’s Sorabji Project Continues – 106
Quincy Jones’ Orchestra Sizzles – 79
First Installment of the Michael Gielen Edition – 213
Shapiro’s Schubert a Labor of Love – 107
Danny Bacher: A Swinger From Way Back – 94
Laurin, Paradiso and Marinčič Bring the French Baroque to Life – 63
Stan Kenton’s Neglected Masterpiece – 57
Regietheater, the Ruination of Opera – 1,808
The Amazing Bertons, Part 1: Ralph – 53
The Amazing Bertons, Part 2: Eugene – 132
Klára Takács’ Recital Reissue a Gem – 121
Maria Divina, Regina dell’Opera – 73
Holliger Completes His Schumann Series – 69
Colin Davis’ “Oedipus Rex” One More Reason to Hate Record Companies – 131
Alchemy Sound Project Goes Metaphysical – 125
Discovering Lucille Udovich – 147
Dunér’s “Dizzy” is a Whirlwind of Creativity – 518
Clotilde Rullaud Morphs Into “Madeleine et Salomon” – 60
Maria Granillo’s Simple But Elegant Music – 58
Matt Wilson Honors His Wife in New Album – 60
A Sizzling “Penthesilea” from Martha Mödl & Co. – 104
Orledge’s Debussy Operas on CD at Last – 147
Kris Allen’s “Beloved” Understated, Subtle Jazz – 53
Erkin’s Little-Known Music a Wow – 203
Joey Alexander’s “Countdown” – 104
Toscanini the Composer – 133
Arthur Lourié’s Impressionist Musical Journey – 106
Weinberg’s Violin Sonatas Unusual, Moving – 88
Fairouz’ “Zabur” Moving, Stunning Music – 217
Red Garland and John Coltrane in a Rare Session – 116
Django – 70
Baker’s Final Testament: The Art of Jazz Solos – 261
Gutiérrez’ Strong, Understated Chopin and Schumann – 71
Libretto for Chabrier’s “L’Etoile” Now Available! – 514
Pianist Sasaki Tackles Clara Schuman – 175
Cruz-Romo, the Great Verdian, on CD at Last – 84
George Antheil, the Madman of Music – 54
Milhaud’s Early and Late String Sonatas Surprise – 53
No Joke! “The Polish Wedding” Will Knock Your Socks Off! – 94
The Great Leonard Rose Rises to the Occasion – 111
A New and Fascinating Berberian Recital – 54
C.P.E. Bach’s Organ Music Wild, Scintillating – 137
Schulhoff’s Strange, Moody Violin Music – 125
Dorothy Donegan: A Study in Frustration – 281
Yondani Butt’s Very Good Beethoven – 115
Reassessing Paderewski, Wizard of the Keyboard – 88
Ohlsson’s Mindblowing Scriabin – 152
Hating On Benny – 65
Take This Music—For Free – 69
“Greetings, Music Lovers…And the Rest of You, Too!” – 93
Björling’s and Tebaldi’s Neglected “Cavalleria” Reissued – 253
Two Short Martinů Operas Reissued – 62
The Amazing Fats Waller – 75
Fischer’s Mahler Seventh a Solid Performance – 59
Gielen Edition Vol. 4 a Mixed Bag – 160
Finley’s Sibelius Tribute Fascinating and Deeply-Felt – 126
Josh Green’s Debut Album Really Hops! – 144
Krainev & Kitayenko Explode in Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos – 144
“hat trick” Weaves a Spell on Listeners – 96
Sidney Jacobs’ Second CD Interesting and Stylish – 85
Warner Classics Releases an Important Menuhin Set – 74
Sommer’s “Rübezahl” a Lively Wagnerian Comedy – 74
Kick-Butt Brahms From Vladar, Kouzmanova-Vladar & Amara – 112
Mayer’s “Dhammapada” Still Vibrant After 40 Years – 59
Vivaldi’s Cello Concertos Jump and Jive With Fishman – 54
Hughes’ “Dream Keeper” Blends Jazz and Poetry – 170
Carsten Dahl Takes You on a Head Trip – 259
Fricker’s String Quartets Moody, Dense – 117
Carollo’s Music Intense, Deceptively Creative – 91
Almeida Prado’s Mindblowing Piano Universe – 55
Jihye Lee: A Name to Watch in Jazz – 102
Tucker’s Great “La Juive” Reissued At Last – 184
Fernández Explores the Evolution of Scriabin’s Preludes – 57
Jiří Kylián: The Master Choreographer – 108
Korstick Digs Into Ginastera – 76
Zych’s “Alice” Fantastic, Imaginative, Enigmatic – 138
Méhul’s “Uthal” a Fascinating Dramatic Opera – 74
Garrido’s Stunning Monteverdi Operas & Vespers – 340
Hindemith’s String Quartets Played by Amar – 55
Rosbaud’s “Moses und Aron” a Mixed Bag – 118
Andrew Davis Cracks Open the Ives Fourth – 120
Temianka and Shure Rip Through the Beethoven Sonatas – 69
Griffes’ Piano Music Revisited by Torquati – 57
Tianwa Yang’s Ysaÿe Sonatas Are the Best – 117
Weinberg’s Violin Sonatas Given a New Interpretation – 116
Krupa’s Last Recorded Performance a Gem – 138
Kamus Has Fun With Finnish String Quartets – 69
R.I.P. Lonie Levister – 146
New Richter Release of Live Schumann – 50
Ravel’s “L’Heure Espagnole” Gets Sparkling New Reading – 59
Penetrating the Dark Musical Mind of Roslavets – 102
Tansman’s Ballets Beautifully Performed in New Release – 91
Walton’s “Façade” In A Lively New Reading – 222
Fricsay’s “Samson” Deeply Moving – 69
The Altius Quartet Jumps from Haydn to Hip-Hop – 103
Blecha-Wells & Kim Revel in Martinů’s “Small Storms” – 73
Hindemith’s “Das Marienleben” in a Great New Recording – 293
Dvořák’s “Spectre’s Bride” a Surprisingly Great Dramatic Work – 71
Why did Arturo Toscanini Come to NBC? – 154
NBC Symphony Myths Debunked – 81
Weinberg’s Piano Quintet & String Quartet No. 7 – 131
Ehnes Plays Beautiful Bach – 50
Reassessing Massenet’s “Le Cid” – 132
Tina Raymond’s “Left Right Left” a Wild Ride – 85
Mari Nobre’s “Live and Alive” a Hip Album – 56
Alex Goodman Surprises on New Release – 55
The Death of “True” French Style and its Impact – 50
Knussen’s Great New Recording of “The Soldier’s Tale” – 109
McCarthy Blends Jazz With Civil War Music – 57
Fumio Yasuda Digs Satie! – 92
Surprising New Recording of Saint-Saëns’ Rare Opera – 186
Michael Gielen Tears Up Bartók & Stravinsky – 79
The Strange Musical Mind of Piotr Szewczyk – 51
Gregory Mertl’s Music Dynamic, Humorous – 72
Molly Kien’s Music Fluid, Moving – 84
Getting to the Heart of Paganini – 56
Fascinating Songs by a Singing Legend – 52
Monk’s “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” Released at Last – 116
Bill Cunliffe’s “BACHanalia” a Fun Ride – 88
Natalia Trull Digs Into Prokofiev! – 282
Getting Into the Heart of Pauline Viardot – 217
Barab’s “Red Riding Hood” a Laugh Riot – 162
Stephanie & Saar Make “The Art of Fugue” Enjoyable! – 208
Koukl Presents Vol. 2 of Lourié’s Piano Works – 58
Anna Kokits Plays Toch – 61
Laura Campisi’s Debut Album Fascinating – 50
Happy 100th Birthday, Inge Borkh! – 173
Harriet Mackenzie’s Wonderland of New Works – 99
Dominic John’s “24+1” a Great Trip – 103
Ponce’s Piano Music Brought to Life by Cendoya – 106
O Sister! Stompin’ Down the Boswells Path – 90
Exploring Tansman’s Folk-Influenced Piano Music – 76
Hausegger’s Amazing Orchestral Works Exhumed – 59
Muczynski’s Chamber Music Brilliantly Played – 98
Alice Coote Fabulous in Mahler Song Cycles – 342
Kegel’s Great “Carl Orff Edition” Reissued – 120
Rodziński Conducts 20th Century Music – 56
Sarah Maria Sun Dazzles in Modern Recital – 68
Harberg & Wolpert’s Viola Concertos – 149
Neunecker’s Strauss Will Blow You Away – 53
Forgotten Jazz Orchestras: Sam Donahue’s Navy Band – 144
Paul Chihara’s Whimsical Music – 62
Peter Seabourne’s Fascinating Piano Mosaics – 59
Honegger’s “Judith” a Great Find! – 62
Exploring the Musical World of Peter Seabourne – 91
The Thibaud String Trio Plays Milhaud & Martinů – 62
Contrasting Styles in Schoenberg’s Quartets – 113
An Interview with Aruán Ortiz – 110
The Anna Lundqvist Quintet Gets Hot! – 247
Matt Wilson’s “Honey and Salt” a Great Tribute to Carl Sandburg – 124
Violinist-Composer Peter Hristoskov: A Retrospective – 57
Katie Thiroux’s “Off Beat” Provides Pleasant Jazz – 56
Josh Nelson’s “The Sky Remains” Mostly Brilliant – 91
New Recording of Szymanowski’s Violin-Piano Works – 51
Nick Photinos’ Interesting “Petits Artéfacts” – 51
Lakatos & Lagrène’s Tribute to Grappelli & Reinhardt – 57
Ysaÿe’s Violin Sonatas Smolder Under Weintraub – 52
George Lloyd’s Surprisingly Good Symphonies – 56
Gielen’s Masterful Mahler Reissued – 330
Steve Rouse’s Wonderful Musical Fantasies – 56
A Potpourri of Pieces for Orchestra and Large Ensembles – 79
Guitarist Rez Abbasi’s “Unfiltered Universe” a Gem! – 51
Johnny Dankworth’s ‘50s Band Cooks in New Reissue – 64
The UK Jazz Ensemble Burns Its Way on Tour – 69
Chasing Bix, the Introverted Enigma – 147
Jonathan Nichol Plays Modern Sax Music – 54
Astronio Makes W.F. Bach’s Keyboard Works Come Alive – 100
Daniel Behle Nostalgic for Tenor Bonbons! – 73
Collins’ Violin Works Lyrical, Original, Haunting – 207
Carn-Davidson 9’s Fascinating New Album – 80
Meister Masters Martinů – 194
Nissen’s “Departures” an Interesting Experiment – 51
Brian Symphonies Played Brilliantly by Alexander Walker – 67
A Cornucopia of Koechlin on SWR Music – 111
A Rare CD from Pianist Jack Reilly – 75
A Koechlin Cornucopia, Part 2 – 63
Griller’s Orchestral Music Dazzling, Brilliant – 92
The Nick Maclean Quartet Breaks Through – 86
Duo Perfetto Digs Kapustin’s Cello Music – 73
Eric Wyatt Looks to the Sky in New Release – 157
Lalo Schifrin Flashes His Classical Side – 103
George Crumb’s Vol. 18 Fantastic Music! – 73
Nørgård’s Early Piano Pieces Released – 66
Discovering Pierre d’Assy – 188
Fonnesbæk & Kauflin Plunge Into the Jazz Abyss – 134
Martin Salemi Has Short Stories to Tell – 90
Liebman-Murley Quartet’s Live Set Released – 75
Poulenc’s Complete Chamber Music Released – 81
Yoncheva’s “Norma” a Mixed Bag – 67
Thierry Fischer’s Mind-Boggling Mahler Eighth – 87
An Abundance of Alkan! – 176
Quattro Mani Play Re-Structures – 77
Y2’s Scintillating Mendelssohn & Kapustin – 73
Discovering Ben Goldscheider’s Golden Horn – 276
Re-Evaluating Toscanini’s 1940 “Missa Solemnis” – 124
Paús’ Music Played Well by Fernández – 155
The Strange Cello Music of Giacinto Scelsi – 152
Rebekah Heller’s Strange Bassoon Adventure – 185
Alberto Bologni Makes “Dedications” in New Pieces – 215
Miguel Baselga’s Albéniz Adventure – 63
Osland’s UK Musicians Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rhythm Section – 65
Mantas Completes Schumann’s Fourth Sonata – 83
Lively Performances of Couperin’s “Les Concerts Royaux” – 86
Korstick’s Wide-Awake Debussy, Vol. 5 Released – 83
Julián Carrillo, the Forgotten Genius – 152
Elena Gaponenko’s Astonishing Dual Talents – 160
The Turtle Island Quartet’s “Bird’s Eye View” – 232
Martinů’s Great Early Orchestral Works Recorded – 149
Donatoni’s Strange Chamber Music – 59
Diethelm’s Fascinating Symphonic Works – 59
Exploring Robert Lloyd’s “Boris Godunov” – 73
Scozzesi’s Rich Mezzo a Welcome Surprise – 85
The Jeff Hamilton Trio Swings at San Pedro! – 67
Paolo & Stephanie Return – 91
20th Century “Jewels” Featured on New CD – 50
Bernard’s Stunning New “Rite of Spring” & “Firebird Suite” – 121
New John Carollo Release a Stunner – 68
Stoltzman Terrific in Jazz-Influenced Clarinet Music – 65
Reappraising William Grant Still – 60
Examining Fagerlund’s “Stonework” – 66
Goodman Introduces Feigin’s Piano Works – 115
An Interview with Paolo and Stephanie – 117
Noah Preminger Expresses his “Genuinity” in New CD – 135
Kijanowska Explores Sonatas on New CD – 80
Joanne Tatham Swings on New Release – 53
Edward Downes’ Magnificent “Rienzi” – 86
Erin McDougald Swings Outside the Soirée – 102
A New Vegas Duo: Penn & Jones! – 57
Zuill Bailey Plays Haydn – 144
McClenty Hunter Hunts “Grooves” – 54
Jared Gold’s Reemergence – 64
Daly’s “Titanic” Double Bass Impresses – 68
Look Out…Dave Tull is Texting and Driving! – 118
The Best Jazz Singer You’ve Probably Forgotten – 56
Adrean Farrugia’s “Blued Dharma” – 76
Kondrashin’s Mahler Sixth Released on CD – 74
Rosen & Artymiw Play Mendelssohn – 90
Les Petits Nouveaux Redefines Manouche Jazz – 59
Jungsu Choi, Jazz Composer – 60
Arthur Fagen’s Superb Diamond Performances – 176
Great New Recording of Bizet’s “Pearl Fishers” – 100
Sellin’s Jazz Impressions of Debussy – 51
The Strange Case of James Levine – 432
Oh! MARTHA! – 108
Fauré’s Complete Songs Issued by Atma – 128
Miguel Harth-Bedoya Takes a Different Look at Mussorgsky & Prokofiev – 94
Nilsson’s 1958 “Tristan” Reissued – 175
Gloria Coates’ Microtonal Music – 53
Lili Boulanger’s Fascinating Choral Works Revived – 79
Beverly Beirne Just Wants to Have Fun! – 57
Walker Delves Into Hindemith & Hartmann – 64
Goodbye, Jack Reilly – 85
Roberto Esposito Plays His Own Piano Music – 58
New CD of Crumb’s Piano Music – 55
Duo Odéon and the Specter of George Antheil – 78
Bobby Sanabria Revamps “West Side Story” – 65
Marty Elkins Swings Oldies in New Release – 124
Banse’s “Das Marienleben” Deep, Penetrating – 56
Ismailova Plays Karayev – 102
John Pittman Feels a “Kinship” With His Band – 147
The Best Forgotten Violinist of All Time – 74
Arturo Toscanini, Warts and All – 96
Korstick’s Fascinating Rachmaninov  – 142
Schumann’s String Quartets in a New Recording – 101
The Turning Point Ensemble Opens a Curio Box – 51
Trio Clavio’s Wonderful New Album – 111
Jansons’ Magnificent Schubert Ninth – 81
Lorraine Feather Returns in “Math Camp” – 55
Annie Chen’s Secret Treetop – 63
Hans Winterberg’s Strange But Fascinating Music – 66

As of January 2018, the hits begin dropping in numbers; from that point on, the average high number of hits is about 24. Yet every day when I log in, I see numerous hits for older blog posts: not just the ones from 2016 & ’17, but sometimes posts I uploaded six or eight months ago. Unlike a hard-copy magazine, people keep coming back to my blog and discovering things that interest them. Even my first eight or ten posts, much to my surprise, keep getting hits.

In addition, most of this year’s posts that have gotten fairly high hit numbers are reposted by the artists themselves on Facebook, Twitter, or their professional websites. This helps as well, because not only do these readers come to my site to read these specific reviews, they eventually peruse the list and explore other posts.

As for my daily traffic, it varies (as do most sites) depending on the season and the weather. August is always a slow month for me, probably because many people are on vacation during that month (something I was only able to do once in my entire working life) and/or feeling too lethargic to come to my site. Nonetheless, it has been increasing steadily. Two years ago I was averaging about 50 visitors per day and roughly 75 views. Now I’m averaging about 112 visitors and 150 views per day, often peaking much higher during the week:

blog stats 11-17-2018

Anyway, I hope you find this of interest. Considering the fact that I take no advertising, nor do I plug the site anywhere myself, I think I’ve grown pretty well!

—Lynn René Bayley

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Lefkowitz-Brown Plays “Standards”

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STANDARD SESSIONS / MOBLEY: This I Dig of You.1 PARKER: Scrapple From the Apple.1 SCHWARTZ-DIETZ: Alone Together.2 KAPER: Green Dolphin Street.3 ROBISON: Old Folks.4 COLEMAN: When Will the Blues Leave?3 LOEWE-LERNER: Almost Like Being in Love.5 DePAUL-JOHNSTON: I’ll Remember April.5 GREEN-HEYMAN: Out of Nowhere.6 PORTER: What is This Thing Called Love?7 PARKER: Yardbird Suite.4 BROWN-KAHN: You Stepped Out of a Dream8 / Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, t-sax; 1David Meder, 2Manuel Valera, 3Steven Feifke, 4Takeshi Ohbayashi, 5Adam Birnbaum, 6Josh Richman, 7Victor Gould, 8Carmen Staaf, pno; 1Barry Stephenson, 2Ben Tiberio, 3Yasushi Nakamura, 4Tamir Shmerling, 5Eric Wheeler, 6Raviv Markovitz, 7Jonathan Michel, 8Ricky Rodriguez, bs; 1Charles Goold, 2Allan Mednard, 3Michael Piolet, 4Bryan Carter, 5Chris Smith, 6Jeremy Dutton, 7Darrian Douglas, 8Kush Abadey, dm / Sound Frame Records (no number), available as digital-only download at www.chadlefkowitz-brown.com/music

This new digital-only release by tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown is titled the Standard Session, but there is often a disconnect in that definition of tunes. Many of these songs are indeed standards in both the pop and jazz sense, but Charlie Parker’s Scrapple From the Apple and Yardbird Suite and Hank Mobley’s This I Dig of You are only standards in the jazz world. I honestly doubt that Ornette Coleman’s When Will the Blues Leave? is really a standard even in the jazz world (only about two or three of his many compositions are standards because of their amorphous harmonic base), and the only reason Willard Robison’s Old Folks is on this list, I am sure, is because Charlie Parker recorded it (with a simply awful vocal ensemble background, in the early 1950s).

But Lefkowitz-Brown, an eight-year veteran of the New York scene who has played with the late Dave Brubeck (a stellar recommendation in itself), Arturo O’Farrill (son of the late, great jazz composer-arranger Chico O’Farrill) and pop star Taylor Swift (actually, not much of a recommendation to musicians!), has surrounded himself here with no less than eight different rhythm section combinations on this album. Thankfully, Lefkowitz-Brown’s proclivity is towards real jazz (undoubtedly the result of his association with Brubeck as well as O’Farrill), and his improvisations are indeed inventive and exciting without resorting to constant squealing and squawking. In short, he knows just what he’s doing and is consistently inventive throughout.

This is no small feat. With the exception of a handful of saxophonists (among them Noah Preminger, whose work I am simply enthralled with), too many players nowadays confuse novelty for invention, and I’m not just saying this because most of these tunes are old swing or bop pieces. I believe that Lefkowitz-Brown would be just as inventive in a more modern setting, playing (for instance) in the very complex charts of Aruán Ortiz or Jungsu Choi. He has great instincts as well as a load of talent.

His backup rhythm sections also swing mightily behind him, creating a wonderful web of sound for him to play over and interacting when they get the chance. Unfortunately, some of the piano solos fly by so quickly that if one blinks you might miss them, but they too are quite good. In Scrapple From the Apple, taken at more of a swing than a bop rhythmic feel (though drummer Charles Goold plays some nice boppish backbeats), Lefkowitz-Brown plays a nice double-time half-chorus that fits in brilliantly with the surrounding material, and Goold’s more laid-back piano fits in well. Bassist Barry Stephenson’s solo is particularly bouncy and full of good humor, as are Bryan Carter’s drum breaks. This quartet is just full of energy and excitement.

There is a decidedly different acoustic on the next session, in which they recorded Alone Together: it’s much closer miked, almost a bit dry like an old mono recording from the 1940s, except that it’s in stereo. Perhaps that was their idea, yet the conception is more modern, almost sounding like a Jazz Messengers performance from the mid-1960s.Here, pianist Manuel Valera is more aggressive than Goold, driving the performance to an almost manic intensity with his solo. This sure isn’t an ambient jazz CD, that’s for sure!

For the life of me, I’ve never understood why so many jazz musicians go gaga over Bronislaw Kaper’s On Green Dolphin Street. I mean, yeah, it’s a nice song, but for me the melody and/or the changes just aren’t that interesting or different enough to warrant constant playing. Nonetheless, Lefkowitz-Brown and his next rhythm section again play it with energy and invention, with the saxist giving us a brief impression of Coltrane’s “sheets of sound.” To be honest, however, I was not terribly impressed by Yasushi Nakamura on bas; his playing was too square and stiff for my taste. Otherwise, however, a good track.

In a way, I was actually happy to hear Old Folks since it provided a rare moment of relaxation in this set and also showed how Lefkowitz Brown, though a tenor player, learned some lessons in phrasing from Johnny Hodges and/or Willie Smith (particularly those tasteful chromatic glisses upward on held notes). In addition, Tamir Shmerling is a wonderful bassist who can make the rhythm “spring” just by his rhythmic placement of notes in the background. When Will the Blues Leave? puts the saxist and his rhythm section back in jump mode, and again he takes off brilliantly and, again, gives us a little taste of Coltrane. Steven Feifke’s piano solo is so good that you almost expect to hear, say, a Blue Note or Birdland audience going nuts with applause when it’s finished, and drummer Michael Piolet sounds as if he’s trying out for the New Buddy Rich award (yes, that’s a good thing). Following this, Almost Like Being in Love takes off at a wonderful medium-slow tempo of the sort that has almost disappeared from modern jazz, and again everyone is in flight mode. Also, in this as in other tracks, I love the way the musicians encourage each other in the background with little shouts of approval.

I’ll Remember April is taken at a fast clip, yet with enough relaxation between beats to produce a nicely-paced performance, with little insertions of a Latin beat here and there. Adam Birnbaum’s piano solo starts out nicely tongue-in-cheek but heats up, and again the band members are yelling encouragement to one another. Out of Nowhere, a truly great tune with wonderful changes, is next, taken at a relaxed medium-slow pace, and here Lefkowitz-Brown builds his inventions from chorus to chorus like a master composer, using motifs and harmonic ideas from the one previous to build on. Josh Richman’s single-note piano solo is also quite good. Interestingly, the saxist plays the melody line of What is This Thing Called Love? straight, rather than including the bop lick from the 1940s that is so common today, but once he takes off he’s flying. Victor Gould’s piano solo is harmonically interesting and also swinging. Yardbird Suite also coasts along at a nice, swinging pace, with Lefkowitz-Brown again creating a real structure in his extended solo.

You Stepped Out of a Dream is taken at a rather quick pace, radically different from the dreamy ballad tempo of the original hit recording by Glenn Miller. They make it sound more like You Jumped Out of a Dream!

This is one of those very rare studio sessions where the whole band sounds as if they’re at one of those side-street cafes or coffeehouses in Greenwich Village in the early ‘70s at 11:00 p.m., one of those sessions where the musicians like they’re playing for their own enjoyment, as if the small crowd was just lucky to be there at that moment. How can you not give an album like this five stars (or, as in my guide to classical music, five fish)? Anything less would be a travesty of justice!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Mantas Conducts Mozart Serenades

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MOZART: Serenades, K. 361 (“Gran Partita) & K. 375 / The European Union Chamber Orchestra Wind Octet; Santiago Mantas, cond / Divine Art DDA 25136

This disc is unusual in that both works here are serenades for wind instruments only: no strings, no trumpets or trombones, no percussion. According to the notes, pieces like this were normally composed for only six to eight musicians, sometimes with an ad hoc double bass line, but more often without. Mozart apparently wrote eight such works: five between 1775-1777 and three more in 1781-82. This CD presents two of these last three.

The first of them, subtitled “Gran Partita,” is clearly the meatier of the two, having long movements with quite complex development, unusual for a work clearly intended to be entertaining. According to Roger Hellyer, this one was written as a wedding day present for his new bride, Constanze, but the program of the actual wedding day festivities is somewhat confused and it is uncertain that this fairly long work (it lasts a full 50 minutes) was actually performed at that time (August 4, 1782). Its first public performance wasn’t until nearly two years later, on March 23, 1784.

This serenade, which uses a double bass in some sections (lightly played but audible), opens with a fairly light, jolly first movement but turns more serious in the first minuet, which lasts almost nine minutes. This has a much more complex development section than one normally finds in such pieces, including several transpositions into the relative minor. The second minuet features a surprisingly dark-sounding theme in the minor and some surprising extended harmonic clashes, as well as audible pizzicato bass playing in the background. The full serenade includes seven movements, the sixth being an even more complex “theme and variations” that runs over 10 minutes.  One of the most striking features of this work is the way Mozart scored it, using the higher winds (flutes and clarinets) to play the melodic lines (and variants) while the horns and bassoons were used like a brass section. Happily, Mantas conducts this with a light hand, so to speak, giving the music a nice rhythmic springiness throughout. He also takes the Adagio at a true adagio tempo, which is a  bit quicker than an Andante and certainly faster than a Largo, which is how many older conductors interpreted Mozart Adagios in general (think of Bruno Walter or Karl Böhm).

The Serenade K. 375, of which this is the first complete and corrected recording, had an odd history. Originally written for a sextet (two each of clarinets, bassoons and horns), Mozart expanded it to an octet the next year, adding two oboes and making some alterations to the score, particularly in the Finale where he added seven bars of recapitulation to the rondo’s main theme. But somehow, when the score was published, it omitted the second minuet. Even more curious, only the odd-numbered movements were found in manuscript form in Mozart’s own hand, the even-numbered ones being written by some unknown copyist, and in the 1950s musicologist Karl Haas discovered that bar 19 of the second minuet was faulty and “the score only makes sense when this bar is cut out.” This score also left out the second trio. Haas fixed both problems and recorded the corrected version of that minuet himself (in the sextet version), but did not live to record the complete serenade as amended.

But we’re talking about a less “serious” Mozart work here, not as complex as the other Serenade. Although it is well-crafted with some surprisingly sober-sounding themes and transpositions here and there, the winds play many more mundane scale passages which to my ears are merely functional and not really inspired. It is much more a piece designed for entertainment, although Mantas conducts it with energy and commitment.

The EU Chamber Orchestra Wind Octet plays with energy as well as a clean line with bright sonorities. All in all, a very fine disc.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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The Arcadia Quartet Tackles Bartók

Bartok Quartets

BARTÓK: Complete String Quartets (Nos. 1-6) / Arcadia String Quartet / Chandos 10992-93

Many decades ago, when the Earth was young and I could still walk and even owned a car, I learned a life lesson that I’ve never forgotten: never assume that only big-name artists on high-powered record labels always give you the best performances of classical music. And yes, for me this even extended to my early idol Arturo Toscanini, who I was to discover didn’t always relax enough to give you the most incisive or interesting performances. But the one that did it for me was, after years of being told by Famous Critics who wrote for Important Magazines that the 1957 recording of Gounod’s Faust with de los Angeles, Gedda and Christoff was the Best Ever, I ran across the old 1929 recording of the opera in English by Miriam Licette, Heddle Nash, Robert Easton and Harold Williams, conducted by Thomas Beecham. This latter recording had so much more charm, elegance and real presence about it that I realized you should never take other performances for granted.

I begin this review with that statement in order to lead into the excellence of this new set of the Bartók quartets played by Arcadia. For 20 years, I was convinced that the Emerson String Quartet’s interpretations on Deutsche Grammophon were the berries, in part because of their intense, powerful readings, but also in part because, again, the Famous Critics who wrote for Important Magazines all moved it into the #1 spot and refused to relinquish its place. In recent years, however, I’ve come to discover the San Francisco-based Alexander String Quartet, whose leader (British-born cellist Alexander or Sandy Walsh-Wilson) has built one of the most interesting and penetrating quartets in the entire world. For the most part, I would place their work even above the much-touted Belcea Quartet, good as they are, as well as several others. The Alexander Quartet’s Bartók cycle is now my clear choice for this music.

That being said, one should not ignore or discount the excellent work done here by the Arcadia Quartet, which also does not have a high international profile (though they are somewhat better known than Alexander). These are highly sensitive and sensitized readings, and in the stark, dramatic passages (of which there are many, starting even with Quartet No. 1), they give their all. As I pointed out in my previous review of Bartók playing his own piano music, his “real” style is not always the one we hear nowadays. Yes, he was a pioneer in infusing Hungarian music with edgy, dissonant chords and equally edgy melodic lines to match, but even the Magyar music on which he modeled this transformation was lyrical music. It had a legato line; it “sang,” even on the piano; and it was fluid. The transformation of Bartók style began in the 1960s but really shifted course considerably from the late 1970s onward into performances that were spikier, with a harder edge and almost brittle note-to-note progressions. Nowadays, there are only a very few musicians who really understand how Bartók is supposed to sound, and I have praised these musicians in my Penguin’s Girlfriend’s Guide to Classical Music.

To my ears, the Arcadia Quartet takes a midway approach to these works. Their style is indeed a bit edgier than the Alexander Quartet’s, but does not avoid a legato sweep quite so much as the Emerson Quartet. And there is another thing I like about these performances: the first violin has a slightly thin, very bright tone, which falls in line with such famed Hungarian violinists as Josef Szigeti, for whom Bartók wrote Contrasts. This, too, was influenced by Magyar folk musicians, and we need to appreciate and embrace it as an integral part of Bartók’s style.

The Arcadia Quartet uses a very “springy” rhythm in their playing, i.e. in the third (and last) movement of the first quartet, which almost but not quite bears a relationship to ragtime or jazz rhythm. This, however, is another modern invention. Although Bartók wrote the clarinet part of Contrasts for Benny Goodman, he actually hated jazz and in fact purposely tried to show Goodman up by writing music so hard to play that the famed clarinetist said to him, “I need three hands to play this!” (Bartók was privately pleased to have shown up Goodman; like so many cultured Europeans of his time, he looked down his nose at all pop culture and referred to the clarinetist as a “jazznik.”) But to our ears today, the strong accents on the syncopations register as perfectly fine. Even I have no objection to it; in fact, it gives the music some real excitement and helps to bind the structure together very well. The second movement of the Quartet No. 3 is played as if on tenterhooks, and here I was a bit less convinced that this was what Bartók wanted. It sounded more Stravinskian to me, and for whatever reason, Bartók also hated Stravinsky. (Let’s be honest: he may have been a great genius, but he was a fairly unpleasant man.)

But this is merely my personal reaction to these performances based on my experience of how Bartók, more often than not, wanted his own music to go, based on his own recorded performances and those of his contemporaries. Comparing Arcadia’s performances to those of the Alexander Quartet, one hears slightly slower tempi and more accented phrasing from the former. The Alexander Quartet does not lack excitement, but they tend to be what I would call less fussy. All of the written accents are observed and clearly heard, but they do not italicize them nearly as much as Arcadia (or Emerson) does. As a result, their performances have a tighter structure. One might best characterize their different approaches by saying that Alexander gives you an almost neo-Classical reading while Arcadia takes a neo-Romantic approach.

Both are certainly valid, and I am sure many listeners will greatly enjoy Arcadia’s approach, at least as an alternative to the Emerson and Alexander sets, but for me, reading the scores as the music is being played, the Alexander Quartet is more “home ground” whereas Arcadia is an interesting alternative. It’s the difference between hearing an exciting literalist like Michael Korstick playing the Beethoven Piano Sonatas as opposed to the imaginative, somewhat rhetorically phrased performances of Annie Fischer. I love both of them, and would not live without either, but if push came to shove I would pick Korstick as “home ground.”

The same thing is true of this set. I like Alexander better for their more straightforward readings, but I also like Arcadia because of the different inflections they use.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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The Return of Thomas Fonnesbæk

Fonnesbaek001

SHARING / FONNESBÆK: Point of No Return. First Dance. For Paco’. Sharing. BERLIN: The Best Thing for You is Me. FONNESBÆK: Navigation. Tokyo Tower.* FONNESBÆK-KAUFLIN-WILLIAMS: Improvisation. FONNESBÆK: Connections. TYNER: Inception / Thomas Fonnesbæk, bass; Justin Kauflin, pno/*Fender Rhodes; Billy Williams, dm/perc / Storyville 1018449

In my review of Thomas Fonnesbæk’s previous Storyville CD, I praised his virtuosity and particularly his unique approach to his instrument, using it almost like a jazz cello and being “lyrical, inventive, and percussive all at the same time.” When contacting him about this new album he mentioned to me that this one had some “new directions.”

The first track on this album, Point of No Return, is clearly new material for him. It begins slowly and softly, with what sounds like electronics in the background. But the tempo slowly and subtly picks up, Kauflin enters on piano, and the music becomes richer and fuller. Fonnesbæk is his usual self, but here his very complex playing is a bit more subjugated to the piano line. As a tune, Point of No Return is fairly simple, built around three chords, although the group transposes the key later on and Kauflin adds some divergent harmonies in his later solo. The tempo then drops again and the piece ends quietly on an unresolved piano chord.

In First Dance, the trio plays calypso-style rhythm, and again Kauflin dominates the track with his fine piano, but the leader gets his say in a stunning solo of his own. The trend towards a greater integration of the three instruments continues apace. Drummer Billy Williams, who did not play on Fonnesbæk’s previous album, colors the music with excellent cymbal washes as Kauflin flies into the stratosphere.

Although nothing is indicated in the liner notes, I can only assume that For Paco’ is a tribute to jazz-flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia; with its Spanish-flamenco sound, I think that’s a safe guess. Kauflin plays mostly single-note lines on this one in the middle and lower range of the keyboard, Williams plays mostly sticks, and the bassist fills in subtly, not dominating with his strong sound. This is modern jazz the way I really like to hear it: rhythmic, creative, and not lacking in little surprises. The leader’s solo is surprisingly light in touch and tone despite its technical wizardry, almost as if he were trying to simulate guitar playing himself.

Sharing is a quiet ballad in which the trio interestingly “drags” the tempo a little, creating a sort of pullback (if you know what I mean) on the beat. Both pianist and bassist use a lot of space here as well in both ensemble and solo passages. Then comes a real surprise, an old standard by Irving Berlin, The Best Thing for You is Me, played in a fairly straightahead (yet still subtle) swing style by the group. In his own personal way, Fonnesbæk pays tribute to such great swing bassists as Jimmy Blanton and Oscar Pettiford, and Kauflin swings mightily in a quasi-Mel Powell vein. With Navigation we return to slow, moody territory, this time with Fonnesbæk taking the lead and first solo while Kauflin fills in subtly yet creatively.

Tokyo Tower begins as a lumbering sort of jazz waltz, but quickly moves into different variations of 4/4. Kauflin plays the Fender Rhodes on this one, adding a light touch of funkiness without getting too bogged down in fusion nonsense, but then switches back to piano for a great solo. Fonnesbæk really swings on this one, too. The collaborative Improvisation which follows, lasting more than seven minutes, is a tribute to the exceptional instinctive skills of these three musicians. The bassist plays a little lick, fleshes it out as Kauflin weaves his piano around it, and off they go into exploration-land. Williams adds a gong and lots of cymbals in the background to add color to the music, which ends up moving quite slowly, morphing as if progresses.

With Connection, we return to a nice swinging beat, this one in a relaxed middle tempo with the leader playing the opening theme before Kauflin’s solo. The pace increases slightly as the music progresses, however, and both pianist and bassist pick things more into third gear. The finale is McCoy Tyner’s Inception, an uptempo bop romp with an unusual chord structure typical of this great and often-underrated pianist. The band really cooks on this one, with the bassist propelling the rhythm with style and aplomb. A great finale to an overall interesting recording by this outstanding bassist and his obviously first-rate trio!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Peled Amit’s Interesting Bach Suites

PeledBachVol1_Cover

J.S. BACH: Cello Suites, Vol. 1: Suites 1-3 / Peled Amit, cel / CTM Classics (no number)

Scheduled for release on February 1, 2019, this is the first recording of these suites on Pablo Casals’ 1733 Goffriller cello since Casals’ own recording in 1936. This is a recording I’ve never liked; although I realize that he was the pioneer in our time of performing these works, his playing is, for the most part, monotonous, sounding as if he was sawing wood.

Yet although Casals’ own recording has not held up well, his cello has, and here Peled Amit gives us an extremely fine reading of these difficult works in outstanding digital sound.

Amit draws a fine, rich tone on the instrument and although I disagree with his decision to use straight tone consistently (it’s not historic, folks, sorry to burst your bubble) his is a real interpretation, using interesting touches of rubato and rallentando effects throughout in order to give the music more interest than just playing them like a metronome.

Although my favorite recordings of these suites are the ones by Yehuda Hanani (Town Hall) and Zuill Bailey (Telarc), I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Amit’s interpretations. In a few places, I felt the rubato was a bit too much, as it detracted from the music’s structure. When you have an audio edifice built up as carefully and meticulously as Bach did, extending the length of too many notes within that structure comes dangerously close to weakening it, but thankfully such moments were rare.

Whereas Bailey took the music in a rather straightforward manner but added a hypnotic tone and wonderful lyricism, and Hanani played a bit with the rhythmic accents, Amit seemed to me to be taking a sort of midway approach. Happily, in faster pieces such as the first suite’s “Courante,” he dispensed with rubato and stayed on the straight path to great effect. And it is clearly a pleasure to hear these suites played on this instrument, which Amit has been using for some time now.

One thing I especially liked in his playing was its fluidity. Too many HIP cellists nowadays play in a style I’d characterize as choppy; they seem to think that legato phrasing wasn’t invented in the 18th century. Amit puts this to rest. Even in the quick movements, he clearly has a lyric continuity in each and every phrase. The overall feeling I get from this recording is one of lyrical elasticity—and elasticity is what was missing from Casals’ own recording of these works. He also has a nice penchant for making the music dance, i.e. in the first suite’s “Menuet I & II.” I’ve long felt that Bach scores based on dance music of his time should indeed dance, and not sound like lumbering or lurching forward. Amit is light-footed and charming in such moments.

Very often in projects such as this, the use of a past musician’s instrument can almost seem like a gimmick, but Amit is thoroughly comfortable with this Goffriller, thus making it sound like his own. This is a subtle but important distinction. I also noted, while listening, that some of the rich low-range effects that Casals achieved on his old recordings were due in large measure to this instrument’s tone. The bottom end of the instrument has a particularly full, round sound that I think must carry well in live performance.

All in all, this is a very fine recording of the cello suites. I’m not sure why CTM Classics chose to release only the first three, however. If you like Amit’s approach to the music, you’d obviously want to hear all six of them, not just the first half. Otherwise, an excellent release.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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The John Fedchock Quartet is Reminiscing

Fedchock cover

REMINISCENCE / FEDCHOCK: The Third Degree. Loose Change. Brazilian Fantasy.* JOHNSON: Lament. REDDING: The End of a Love Affair. WARREN-DUBIN: You’re My Everything. DAMERON: If You Could See Me Now / John Fedchock, tb; John Toomey, pno; Jimmy Masters, bs; Dave Ratajczak, *Billy Williams, dm / Summit DCD 735

Veteran jazz trombonist John Fedchock, who has led a New York Big Band for several years, here presents his playing in a quartet setting. Some of these tracks were recorded in 2015 and left over from his album Fluidity, while others were newly taped to fill out this CD. “In some instances,” he writes, “the music was newer material, and in other cases, it was just informal blowing tunes to give the group a chance to play without the pressure of any agenda.” Some tracks are live while other were studio-recorded.

Fedchock is an outstanding trombonist whose style combines elements of J.J. Johnson, whose Lament is included on the album, and a bit of Jimmy Knepper, though his technique is smoother than the latter’s playing. He is clearly a superb technician as well as a fine improviser, as the tracks on this set show. As a jazz composer, his work is fairly standard, straightahead jazz, although well constructed and beautifully played.

One thing that struck me, particularly in the first two tracks, was that Fedchock dominated the solo space. This is not entirely a bad thing, as he is a wonderful player, but I would have liked a bit more equality among the soloists, particularly since John Toomey is clearly a fine pianist, although both he and bassist Masters get full-chorus solos on Loose Change. Needless to say, the leader plays Johnson’s lovely tune Lament beautifully, particularly in his double-time solo. As the album progresses, thankfully, the others in the quartet get their say.

Fedchock’s solo trombone intro to Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now is particularly excellent, and everyone in the group sparkles on Brazilian Fantasy, particularly Toomey with a nice crossed-hand passage in his piano solo.

In sum, this is what I’d call a good, old-fashioned blowing date of the kind that used to be common in the best jazz clubs across the country. It’s jazz with a spine and good vibes in which the entire group participate and the audience can sit back, relax, and enjoy the proceedings without too many obstacles such as irregular meters or quickly-morphing chord patterns.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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