Classical CD Reviews
“X Over Trombone” – NATHANIEL SHILKRET: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra; JAMES PUGH: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra; JEFF TYZIK: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra – James Pugh, trombone/ Colorado Symphony Orchestra/ Jeff Tyzik – Albany
Published on October 26, 2007
This most interesting CD is subtitled “Genre-shattering trombone concerti for the 21st Century.” The X-over idea refers to the fact that all three of these concertos show the influences of the popular music of their times, and also that versatile musician James Pugh is known for his composing and performing virtuosity in not only concert music but also jazz and rock. He has done arrangements featuring the trombone and other brass in many different genres, and has toured with many important performers.
Nathaniel Shilkret was a crossover artist of his time, without the benefit of that catchy ID. He was a star of radio and conducted and arranged for the NBC Network, making many RCA Victor 78s of his own and other’s music. Five of his recordings are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. His Trombone Concerto was created for performance by Tommy Dorsey, much as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw had performed classical works. Pugh has restored the 1942 concerto from some of the original parts he obtained from the Shilkret estate. The first movement is in the form of a Romantic piano concerto, such as the Grieg. A feeling of Gershwin is heard in the second movement melody; Shilkret arranged and conducted a special Gershwin Tribute on NBC Radio in 1945. The last movement is a boogie-woogie in the best swing band style of the day.
Pugh’s own concerto reflects his careers in the classical, jazz and commercial worlds. It is not really jazz-influenced, but leans more toward the popular influence of what he refers to as “straight eighth-note music.” The second movement has a Copland style to it, and the final movement features an increasingly frenetic dance-like section. Jeff Tyzik is the Pops Conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic and is one of America’s top pops conductors and arrangers. His concerto shows a strong jazz influence, but also Latin and Afro-Cuban. He uses the call-and-response form frequently, and the work also ends with a busy dance. It, like the other two concertos here, would fit well on any pops program, being tonal and very accessible. Due to its time in Pugh’s hands the trombone’s possibilities as a solo instrument will seem much stronger after you have auditioned this disc.
– John Sunier