Jazz CD Reviews

Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet – American Complex – Origin Classical The David Leonhardt Trio – Bach to the Blues (Improvisations on Classical Themes) – Big Bang Records

Two Avenues to Blending Classical and Jazz.

Published on April 6, 2010

Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet – American Complex – Origin Classical 
The David Leonhardt Trio – Bach to the Blues (Improvisations on Classical Themes) – Big Bang Records
Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet – American Complex – Origin Classical 
The David Leonhardt Trio – Bach to the Blues (Improvisations on Classical Themes) – Big Bang Records

Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet – American Complex – Origin Classical  OC 33006, *****:

(Jim Gailloreto, sop. sax; and string quartet; Guests: Patricia Barber on 2 tracks, John McLean, guitar on one track)

The David Leonhardt Trio – Bach to the Blues (Improvisations on Classical Themes) – Big Bang Records BBR9584 ****:

(David Leonhardt, piano; Matthew Parrish, doublebass; Alvester Garnett, drums)

There are a number of new albums coming out recently with a more thoughtful approach to the “crossover” style than we usually have, and with more musical interest than most of the Third Stream works produced and recorded in the 60s and 70s. The idea of a jazz improviser on a solo instrument plus a string quartet or string orchestra is not a new one by any means. The Charlie Parker With Strings sessions were a milestone in jazz.

For this album Jim Gailloreto wanted classically-trained musicians to provide a springboard for his own playing. The album title comes from a four-movement original composition which Gailloreto calls the cornerstone of the album. The four movements refer to expressions of the human voice: Soliloquy, Lullaby, Incantation, and Sermon. They encompass a swath of Americana, from the Shaker simplicity of the first movement to Gailloreto’s ethereal soprano solo on Sermon. Lullaby is not going to put you to sleep.

The six-minute version of Monk’s ‘Round Midnight is one of the most touching I’ve ever heard. Other big name sources here are Jerome Kern and Fats Waller. I’m not a fan of Patricia Barber, but Gailloreto has worked with her and included her on two tracks, of which I found Wind Song quite convincing. Two of the tracks are duos, with only a cello (Gailloreto’s wife) and soprano sax in Honeysuckle Rose, and violin and sax in “Round Midnight. Gailloreto – who did all the arranging – moves far beyond the usual string quartet backing of a jazz soloist. These are fully-integrated compositions with layering-on of phrases and often a feeling approaching that of a chamber orchestra. The soprano sax also seems to fit in better with the quartet than the usual alto or tenor sax.

This CD doesn’t quite come up to the standards of my personal favorite in this genre – Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter’s masterful Focus, but it comes close.  An element that puts this album far ahead of Charlie Parker’s is that Gailloreto’s string quartet all play in perfect tune, which Parker certainly didn’t have.

TrackList;
All The Things You Are; Well You Needn’t; Honeysuckle Rose; Spring Song; American Complex; ‘Round Midnight, Wind Song, Bad Clowns.

David Leonhardt has 38 years of dues-paying in jazz, having worked with everyone from Benny Carter to Stan Getz.  He arranged five of David Fathead Newman’s CDs and was musical director for Jon Hendricks for four years, among other gigs. In his Bach to the Blues CD he takes 11 fairly standard classical themes and improvises on them with his trio in much the same fashion as a jazz pianist would do standards from The Great American Songbook.

There are three Bach selections, which start out much like the Jacques Loussier Trio Play Bach treatments, but often have a second section with more jazzy improvisation around the basic themes. The two Chopin selections show that composer to be almost as flexible as Bach when taking into the jazz realm. The Mazurka in g is the longest track on the disc, with some creative transformations of the composer’s theme. Leonhardt has chosen the too-familiar Pachelbel Canon as the closing number, also found on a couple of other recent jazz releases. I wish they had chosen the Albinoni Adagio instead – a much better piece of music.

TrackList: Prelude in G (Bach), Claire De Lune (Debussy), Ave Maria (Schubert), Gymnopedie No. 1 (Satie), Prelude in a (Bach), Adagio from Pathetique Sonata (Beethoven), Simple Gifts (Trad.), Mazurka in g (Chopin), Prelude in Bb (Bach), Mazurka in C (Chopin), Canon in D (Pachelbel)

 - John Henry




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