German-born composer/trumpeter Michael Mantler and his then-wife Carla Bley were instrumental in developing within jazz the idea of self-sufficiency and independence from established record companies. Their creation of the Jazz Composer's Orchestra, with recordings released on their own label, was the culmination of this endeavor, and the first recording was one of the masterpieces of creative music in the '60s. Mantler had come from the European avant-classical tradition and sought to provide an orchestral framework supporting some of the most advanced musicians in avant-garde jazz – and he succeeded magnificently.
The late Nathan Milstein’s 1975 stereo remake (DG mid-price) was his own preferred version of these pillars of the violin repertoire with which he had been so associated since his youth in Odessa. But his (broadly faster) mid-Fifties New York account, now remastered and restored by EMI, was a famous yardstick of its time – a grandly phrased, aristocratically structured, Romantically resonant statement to treasure beside Menuhin and Heifetz. These are epic virtuoso performances justifying Milstein’s view that with this music the performer could ‘bask in the most glamorous light’. Stylistically, purists will object to their expressive liberty and gesture. But few will be able to resist their artistry or intensity of delivery.
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