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Jazzers playing classical pieces

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by Bill Brasky, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. I've read that a lot of jazz musicians like Bud Powell, Mingus, Monk, Bird and all them were into classical music, but I can only think of maybe a few, if any, recordings of them (or anyone) playing any. I mean it obviously had an influence and made its way into their playing, but I was just wondering if there are any well known recordings of jazzers playing songs by some of the famous classical composers.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Keith Jarrett recorded both books of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, and I know that Chick Corea has recorded a few Mozart Piano Concerti. Both got very mixed reviews.
  3. Uri Caine did a whole album of Mahler a few years ago. He's had other things on subsequent albums as well but I don't recall the pieces.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Dave Holland has had a contemporary classical piece written specifically for him by the highly-regarded composer Mark Anthony Turnage - called "Bass Inventions", it is like a concerto for Jazz bass and orchestra.

    I was fortunate to see Dave play it in my home town with the Birmingham Comtemporary Music Ensemble!

    Herbie Hancock plays the Ravel Piano Concerto on his Gershwin album.
  5. Gary Burton & Makoto Ozone recently released a CD "Virtuosi" containing arrangements of music by Ravel, Barber, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Scarlatti, Brahms and others. It's an interesting although not a new idea - check out Jacques Lousierre's "Play Bach" sometime.

    - Wil
  6. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY

    Arturo Sandoval also did a classical album a while back that got a decent reception.

    Eddie Daniels has done some crazy classical crossovers.
  7. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
  8. Wynton Marsalis did a number of classical recordings in the '80s, and came off as just another dilettante.

    Are there any recordings out there of Bill Evans playing classical pieces? He did start off as a concert pianist, after all.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    He's still doing them with releases in 2000 - Wynton has won nine Grammy Awards, and is the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards for both jazz and classical records, and the only artist ever to have won Grammy Awards five years in a row!!

    Here's a review of a recent DVD :

    Wynton Marsalis: The London Concert
    With the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Raymond Leppard. Haydn: Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major; Hummel: Trumpet Concerto in E Major; Leopold Mozart: Trumpet Concerto in D Major
    Sony Classical Film & Video SLV 53482. 46:08

    Marsalis won a Grammy over a dozen years ago for his music CD of these three Classical period concertos. Now, after a life primarily in jazz, he has approached these works again with a greater maturity and taped them for the high definition video cameras in a gorgeous old church in London. In an interview printed on the jacket Marsalis says that it may be a completely different way of playing from jazz but it's not a different way of thinking. He plays written, not improvised cadenzas in the works. Marsalis also touches on the jazz work helping him to play the classical works with a certain optimism, and one can identify with that in these sparkling performances.

    One might think three rather similar trumpet concertos in a row to be boring with only Marsalis standing in front of the small orchestra, but the setting, playing and high definition images and sound keep one's attention focused for the three-quarters of an hour of the concert. The letterboxed widescreen transfer down from the HDTV master aids the feeling of this being a special sort of concert. It certainly scores over the quality of image and sound one would get with a PBS symphonic concert telecast via cable or antenna. Although not in Dolby Surround format, the church ambience is well-captured and was easily decoded by my Fosgate processor for a convincing surround field on the "Classical" setting with a bit of additional delay added on the surrounds.

    John Sunier
  10. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    The second paragraph of the above review is interesting
  11. Thanks for the forwarding the review, Bruce. I realise that WM is a phenomenal musician, and very successful - but, with the Ken Burns "Jazz" series firmly in my mind, I have this mental picture of the following scenario, in that every two or three minutes, His Holiness would stop the orchestra, and demonstrate to the audience that "...well, at this point old Franz Joseph would have leaned over and whispered to his lead horn-man, and said (in German of course, him bein' German an' all) "Hey man, you dig this scheisse! I mean this movement has to slow right down man, I mean Dizzy will most probably play it like this..." raises golden instrument to those Holy Lips, and plays "...ba-da-di-diddly-ah-do-pa-dah, do-pah-dah, do pah-di..." :eek:

    (sorry man, I couldn't resist... ;) )

    - Wil
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    So, Wynton is a populist and encourages kids to get interested - is that necessarily a bad thing?

    In the Classical world there are lots of performers who will adopt a jokey tone and put on concerts for kids - so there was a "Blue Peter" Promenade concert at the Albert Hall - aimed at kids this year.

    Surely this is the side to err on - rather than saying : this music is too complex to appreciate or enjoy unless you have a degree in music and 20 years experience? ;)

    Do people have to be esoteric musical snobs, to be seen as serious musicians?
  13. Interesting choice of words, Bruce - have you seen the Ken Burns series?

    - Wil
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Yes - I saw every episode. I think that the opinion over here was that it wasn't very good, but it did do something towards popularising Jazz. Personally I saw it as an attempt at social history - rather than anything to do with music as such.

    Anyway, I was more thinking of Christsmas concerts I have seen on TV, with Wynton and an Orchestra where he is trying to explain musical ideas to children.

    My take is that Wynton is trying to "demystify" and make it all simpler - depends whether you think music should be open and accesible to all or only for an esoteric club of musicians?
  15. The general consensus over here, is that it the series was incomplete, and that (according to the series) nothing of any significance happened after the late seventies, when St. Wynton single-handedly rescued Jazz from the oblivion to which it had been consigned after having suffered years of neglect. The impression which was left (in this mind, at any rate) was that Jazz has always been a Black art-form (and I don't mean Aleister Crowley) and that White Folk really haven't made any major contributions to the evolution of jazz. These are not just my impressions, but those of many others (see threads passim).

    I understand your comments about "demystify" and simplification, but those words didn't really come to mind when I saw the Ken Burns series.

    - Wil
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I agree with all your points but I just don't think we should classify Wynton because of this one thing - he has done a lot more than that - especially in the Classical field, to popularise music in general.
  17. I'm sure the jazzers who were making great records in the '70s, obviously unaware that jazz was dead before the Marsalis family showed up to save it, would appreciate your sentiments, Bruce.
  18. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    One of my favcorite Evans records is "Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra", which has Bill and the trio playing classical themes by Granados, Faure and Chopin along with orchestrations by Claus Ogerman, and then improvising over them. There's also an Evans standard (Time Remembered) and a couple of compositions for trio and orchestra.

    It's a knockout.

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