You could drive a person crazy backing track
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Notify me of follow-up comments by email. A bit of the composer's best-known piece, "Send in the Clowns," makes a brief appearance here, too, an idea seized elsewhere it does get its full due with Ethan Iverson creative combustion of the traditional and the odd. While Bolcom's contribution provides a short-but-sweet little affair of about one hundred seconds of music as the first course for this banquet, some selections are far longer: the aforementioned Golub and Akiho contributions and four others pass the seven minute mark.
They seem programmed for variety in tone, though sometimes two selections inspired by songs from the same score are side by side. The latter is the captivating creation of Fred Hersch, a giant of jazz. And four pieces that begin or end a disc likewise are reflections on songs that begin or end one of the two acts in the shows from which they came.
Indeed, while much changes here, some bursts of energy that make strong beginnings or powerhouse punches not meant to be followed remain such and retain that impact not sensibly shifted to another spot. If you thought some Sondheim was locked in impenetrable forms, think again. With full reign of artistic license, not having to consider or use lyrics, and some composers not previously entrenched in Sondheim, it's like that lyric in Follies , if you will: "Everything was possible and nothing made sense.
They're fantasias on them, responses to the melodic lines and the harmonies, and occasionally the accompaniments.
Musical Backtracks Sept2015
And the same score's "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" has usually been locked into its boop-a-doop bounce and cheery sarcasm except in Sondheim on Sondheim on Broadway where it was re-set as a grouse-fest for a mutually peeved couple and didn't translate so well , here it gets a more successful blood transfusion and multi-hued look from Eric Rockwell. There's so much marvelous stuff here that it's difficult to single out more at least without being a spoiler with lots of specifics, and much is better experienced with the above summaries hopefully sufficient to adequately describe and tantalize.
But I think theatre fans will want to note some more familiar names from the genre, two of whom go on sprees with Sweeney Todd treats, and both add extra textures to the de Mare solo piano sound: Jason Robert Brown brings his fertile imagination and energy to a more manic and populated menagerie that only starts with the caged "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" for what he calls "Birds of Victorian England," while Duncan Sheik gets trippy with an engineered backing track for what's now known as "Johanna in Space.
While all paths start from Stephen Sondheim here, these new companion pieces make the results sound like what could arguably be described as more than suggesting a very diverse range of genres: modern pieces with classical music foster parents, elegant art songs, and magnificent mixed marriages of minimalism and explosive but refined splashing. He is magnificent and commanding and masterfully versatile, as proven by the great diversity of feelings and styles here, from jazzmaster Wynton Marsalis' survey of iconic historical piano styles on "That Old Piano Roll" to the Japanese-flavored Pacific Overtures piece restyled by Annie Gosfield, "A Bowler Hat.
Yes, de Mare wears many hats and wears them well, and gets the last "word" here, with his own piece to end this remarkable three-disc set. It's "Sunday," remarkably bringing new colors to the summation of painter George's "perfect park. Sound Advice Sublime Sondheim Time! It is "Old Friend. Likewise, the presence of Steve Ross singing and playing quality songs of wit and wistfulness is certainly an old friend to ears and hearts after his decades as live entertainer and recording artist.
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This album is titled after another gem from the same score as "Old Friend," Merrily We Roll Along , and appears in the show in many guises, emerging as "Good Thing Going. While Steve Ross entertained with his trademark flair in many a posh room over the years, described as dapper and sophisticated guilty on both counts , let's banish forevermore any idea that elegance can't co-exist with being vulnerable and real.
A prim carnation may seem to actually take root and grow upon his neatly pressed lapel, but his heart is on his sleeve and an air of refined politeness can also put that heart into songs that cry out "Please love me. There's no question that this is one singer who actually sounds thoroughly at home with the vocabulary and references this lyricist or his more usual Coward or Porter spout, and he breathes them as easily as his caring and careful articulation emphasizes them. He's as much worldly wise as world weary. He's convincing at all the above and can be spiffy spinning some sass and loopiness, too.
And a little interpolation of Company 's "Side by Side by Side" as a side commentary is the cherry on top of this fun sundae. Few would think to include the quaint "One More Kiss," which, outside its grand operetta diva dazzle for Follies , becomes a tender, smaller-scale heartrending plea.
Also from that well-mined musical, Mr. Ross chooses to toss off the peppy paean, "Ah, Paris!
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And then there's the rarely done "Sand" from the unproduced film Singing Out Loud! Speaking of singing out loud, there isn't much that's loud and boisterous. Yes, less is indeed more on some numbers where we are more accustomed to angsty pleading or out-and-out belting. A gentle, delicate "Marry Me a Little" and the number written to replace it, "Being Alive," are especially moving in this concert's more pensive and knowing approach.
While some of the discrete and understated vocalizing may be a concession to age and caution not thrown to the wind when ever-aware that a live performance is being recorded for posterity, some tip-toeing suits the endeavor and allows for attention to well-executed shading. There's a lived-in wisdom coming through the voice and the finely tuned timing.
Rather than having some material come off as solipsistic introspection with the spotlight turned on himself, there's a sense of the singer sharing observations or lessons learned about human nature in general. It's part of the encore, but there's also an encore to the encore with a bonus track recorded in a studio a year after this live London set. The final track is "Goodbye for Now" from the film Reds , one more gem well served. This live album recorded in England at the cabaret called Pizza on the Park has some patter, focused on the material, and it's charming and terse.
Only the longest segment is tracked separately. It is a welcome to the crowd, an appreciation of the composer-lyricist as "groundbreaking," exploring the darker, conflicted sides of human nature, and a salute to his willingness to be "audacious. Ross recalls having seen an early run through of the original Company and how "we all" knew it was special then. Later, acknowledging the hand-holders in the audience, he jokingly invites them to step outside and take up smoking while he sings the decidedly non-romantic lyrics about marriages which Richard Rodgers rejected from Do I Hear a Waltz 's "We're Gonna Be All Right.
His piano playing and stylings very much respect and honor the original intents of the songwriter. His touch is loving and shows his deep knowledge of, and connection to, the material.
He plays as if breathing, but never shortchanging the meaning.