Three Piano Concertos

April 8, 2017

9003643991309 copy

 

As I listened to this selectiion for the first time I thought to myself what an unusual choice of selections especially the Rimsky-Korsakov selection, one that I would consider unsung and seldom performed. Does Lizst and Tchaikovsky fit? The answer to the question is a resounding yes.  Not only does the historical (50+) years sound good, no stereo, but the playing is very good. While this would not be my choice of listening recordings of the Tchaikovsky or the Lizst recordings:I guess we have our favorites I tend to favor the Rimsky Korsakov recording over any of the others I have heard. For me this was just another orchestral color piece of Rimsky-Korsakov not better or worse than many of his others. This performance seemed to stick a little more inside me and I wanted to hear it again and again. Suddenly I began to enjoy the fine playing and listened to it as more of a piano concerto rather than an orchestral piece and I truly appreciated it for what it was written for. It is a scant 13 minutes, 5 minutes less than Tchaikovsky’s first movement but the shortness is an advantage as there is no excess baggage and every note and chord are there for a reason.

Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto is the favorite of many and for good reason. It is filled with melodies and is very accessible to even the beginning classical listener. The Lizst has a very powerful bold melody in the first movement that is fully developed around piano chords. A second more delicate theme appears part way through the first movement and continues into the next movement. A new theme, rather flashy surfaces in the third movement and also a repeat of the second theme. The final movement is a repeat of the theme from the first movement. Note that this is a four movement concerto not the standard three which is the norm.

Keep in mind that this is considered a historical recording and you’ll not hear the extended range as you’re accustomed to hearing on a Chandos recording. I feel that the fine playing overcomes that objection nicely.

 

 

 

Federal Fugitives

January 6, 2017

 

The copy of the film that I had was poor quality with an excess amount
of contrast and vertical lines off and on throughout the film. I
purchased it because I like the genre, Neil Hamilton, and have a look
at Doris Day in 1941. I didn’t even recognize her! The basic plot was
Federal Agent James Madison (Neil Hamilton) trying to arrest Otto
Libermann aka Haskel(Victor Varconi) for a plane crash he was
responsible for. Chuck (Lyle Littel is just the right amount of comedic
relief for the picture.Music doesn’t fit some of the scenes which leads
me to believe that they tried to use source tracks without success. If
I had a copy of better quality I might raise my rating from 3-5.
Otherwise pass and watch some better ‘B’ movies.

Gang Bullets

January 5, 2017

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When the theaters were owned by the major studios in the 30’s and 40’s the price of a ticket got you a feature film, cartoon, news reel, and what is now called a ‘B’ movie. “Gang Bullets” is a ‘B’ film from Monogram, a top poverty studio of it’s day, and if this is judged against other ‘B’ movies it would fall into the top 20%. Starring ‘B’ actors Anne Nagel (a rare top billing for her), Robert Kent, and Charles Towbridge, the 63 minute film is a crime/gangster who knows the law all too well. The DA is trying to put him behind bars but seems hindered in his efforts until?

Directed by Lambert Hillyer under the watchful eye of Scott Dunplap the film moves along keeping your interest. Music director is Abe Meyer, who was the king in finding source material, and it worked in this film.

Since this film went into public domain there are less than copies available, some shortened. This includes the free internet archive whose copy is inferior to the one I purchased from Oldies.com which was around $5.00 including shipping. My copy is clearer with less background noise. When I finish 100 of these I’ll rank them. Right now this one is somewhere around #20. Will keep you posted.

Cartoon Classics

January 2, 2017

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If you think about the Allentown Band, the oldest US civilian band, you should think about what they are famous for which is band music from Sousa, Anderson, and others. There latest offering is called “Cartoon Classics,” something that seems to be way off base for them but further examination reveals some very fine arranging of classical music for band. The tunes selected might very well be ones that you heard in Fantasia, Merry Melodies,Tom and Jerry, and Bugs Bunny and his gang.  You can relive the “Bunny of Seville,” “Rhapsody Rabbit,” the Hippopotamuses dancing a ballet, and others.
What I was really impressed with were the arrangements. As I sat and listened the woodwinds began to sound like strings! The brass section semmed to integrte itself in some parts so you couldn’t even hear them. The band was a well oiled group and there were no flashy solos to detract from this kind of music. The orchestra played as a team and no one missed a beat.
Relive your childhood and give this CD a spin or download it to yourmp3 player and just enjoy what you hear.

 

 

Too Late Blues

December 26, 2016

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Before listening to a new release I settle back with a cup of tea or coffee and read the liner notes. To my surprise I saw the name Milt Bernhart and being a trombone player I immediately knew who it was and couldn’t wait to hear him. I wasn’t disappointed as there were several tracks where he was featured. The combo of Red Mitchell, Benny Carter, Jimmy Rowles, Uan Rasey, Shelley Manne, Larry Bunker, Tommy Tedesco, and Milt Bernhart take a backseat to no one on the west coast. They play the laid back cool jazz that the west coast was famous for.

The film stars Bobby Darin as a pianist who is stuck in an ideal mode until he falls in love with Stella Stevens. The film was directed and produced by John Cassavetes and he also co-wrote the screenplay. The film came and disappeared quickly with barely a ripple in the lake.

Raksin’s song, “A Song After Sundown,” his second best effort after “Laura,” is first featured in a lush arrangement with singing strings. The jazz combo gets plenty of opportunity to play it in a variety of different rhythms and styles including a vocalise from Jess Polanski, Stella Stevens character in the film.

The material comes from one track mono as well as 3 track stereo material. Raksin wrote all of the music including all source material. You’ll here all different styles of material from Raksin including rhumbas, honky tonk, a somewhat classical version on the piano, blues, and light jazz. In a word sweet.

Seal One Part 1 – Sax Raises Its Ugly Head
Theme from Too Late Blues (A Song After Sundown)
The Rim Shot Heard ’Round the World
Mother Time (Juke Box)
Something Like Noodles/Something Like Bulio/
Something Like That
Heel and Toe – Get Wildroot Hair Oil, Charlie
Bass Canard (short version)

Look Inward, Angel
Danzon
A Song After Sundown
Sambalero
Recording Studio Part 2 – A Song After Sundown
Wither Thou, Ghost!
Blues for Tomorrow
Ulysses in Swanktown
Like Lasagna
Ghost Blows Test
Benny Splits While Jimmy Rowles
Ciudad de Mexico
Wife’s Other John
Finale – The Rim Shot Heard ’Round the World
Bonus tracks
Paramount Seal and Tie-In (alternate version)
Danzon
Ciudad de Mexico
Some Other Time
Benny Splits While Jimmy Rowles (short version)
Look Inward, Angel (combo)
Look Inward, Angel (combo – long version)
The Rim Shot Heard ’Round the World (alternate)
Sambalero
Bass Canard (long version)
Wife’s Other John (extended version)

yellowflowersonthegreengrass

I first became familiar with Christopher Wong in 2007 with his score to the film Journey from the Fall, which featured a hauntingly beautiful melody. It is still available as a download directly from the Movie Score Media website as well as his score from The Rebel.

The first track “The Green Grass,” was a bit of a surprise for me as it started off with an acoustic guitar, all harmony before the violin offered the attractive melody along with a continuing of the melody. This melody will appear throughout the score and it will surprise you as it occurs briefly in “Past The Forbidden Trees” and more prominent in “Fishing, Administration and Envy” “The Fable” introduces a new  theme which is offered on the bassoon. This theme continues more prominently on “Grumpy Teacher” and reminds me of the grandfather theme from Peter and the Wolf. The final selection “Thang Cuoi” are the lyrics to the main theme sung in Vietnamese by a charming voice which puts icing on this soundtrack.

If you’re looking for a soundtrack that is laid back and filled with melodies this is one for you. Wong has written a score that has nothing brash or distorted about it. There is no brass only woodwinds, strings and appropriate oriental instruments. There is very little if any pentatone style.

Wong is a composer to be explored if you’ve not yet had the opportunity. Recommended.  

TRACK LISTING

1 The Green Grass 2:13
2 Guilty Rain 1:22
3 Past The Forbidden Tree 2:30
4 The Fable 2:30
5 Grumpy Teacher 2:12
6 Dear Brother 2:12
7 Fishing, Administration and Envy 3:53
8 Flooded 2:19
9 Running Away 1:55
10 Moon Moves 2:21
11 The Days Ahead 3:16
12 The Princess and the Prince 1:53
13 Walking Again 1:15
14 Remembering Dad 1:44
15 The Matter of Loving You 2:53
16 Thang Cuoi 5:09

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When I received this CD from Aevea and put it in my Marantz 4004 I was surprised at the sound I heard as this 66 minute recording unfolded. The sound was bright and clear and while the arrangements were complex in areas they didn’t come off like a piano concerto or showmen type material .Even in  the complex sections you could clearly hear the the melody and the harmony. I think it reminds you of a silent movie piano playing and some of Laurel and Hardy short films were silent so it fits in very nicely with the style. I also think that if you’re not familiar with Laurel and Hardy at all (I doubt you would buy this) the majority of the music plays out like cartoon music which back the silly antics of the pair.

This is a nice edition to the collector of Laurel and Hardy material as well as the occasional watcher. You’ll hear a tune and then try to guess what movie it was from. I don’t think Hal Roach had any idea the following they have along with books, music, toys and other novelties. I don’t know if every short or film is represented but the vast majority of them are.