The all-girl trio Arabesque was created by two Frankfurt-based German producers at the height of the disco era in 1977. After one album and a few singles that had found surprising success in Japan, the producers changed the lineup, keeping Michaela Rose and replacing the two other girls with Jasmin Vetter and Sandra Lauer. Vetter, a former gymnast, also became the trio's choreographer and Lauer, soon to be billed simply as Sandra, assumed the position of a lead vocalist. The first single of the updated Arabesque, "Hello, Mr. Monkey" went to number one in Japan. The Far East remained the band's biggest market, with numerous albums and compilations released over the years. However, Arabesque's success in their homeland was very modest, with only one single, "Marigot Bay," entering the German charts at number eight in 1981. In 1984, they disbanded and Sandra embarked on a successful solo career with the songs written by her future husband Michael Cretu (of Enigma fame.) Jasmin Vetter and Michaela Rose formed a new duet, Rouge, but after a few obscure singles it ceased to exist.
The Sixteen, bright stars of the Baroque, have plenty to say on 20th-century repertoire (witness their excellent Britten series on Collins). Underpin them with the BBC Philharmonic and it might seem a magic formula. Ives’s unearthly The Unanswered Question holds few problems for instrumental players weaned on Maxwell Davies – no more than do the brilliant wind roulades of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Deft BBC teamwork and a chamber articulation to woodwind and brass helps this Koussevitzky-commissioned masterpiece to shed its often hammy ‘big band’ sound, creeping closer to the subtle, leaner sonorities of his later choral works. It gains. The singing varies. Too many dynamic shifts sound prosaic or under-prepared; fortes are forced, with muddy results. The vocal blend (happier in lower voices) can seem haphazard and colours the Tippett, where the men’s roars – contrast the lovely, sensual soprano solo – seem crude. Get this disc, instead, for the rare, late Poulenc – his New York-commissioned Sept répons. It is a curiously under-recorded devotional work, bleeding with pathos yet pumping energy, its exoticism enhanced by slightly breathy, tender solos, and scintillatingly sung with just those crucial missing qualities of awe and freshness. A million times more refined than what goes before.
One of Nat Adderley's finest albums. Sometimes the inclusion of tuba in a small-group modern jazz setting can produce whale-like results among a school of dolphin, but that's not the case here. Tuba man Laymon Jackson doesn't dominate or weigh down the proceedings, but merely gives them another texture. Nat is in fine form; I like his Miles mode on BLUE CONCEPT a lot. Tune selection for the date is also top rate: the two compositions by Duke Pearson (WHAT NEXT? and LITTLE MISS) are especially good. Nat Adderley fans and modern jazz lovers in general should like this ambitious CD very much.
Wah Wah is a 1995 recording that follows this band's stretch and includes the replacement of guitarist Razem Rübel with Dieter Bornschlegel, who is another rock classicist and a solid role player in a larger team setting. Wah Wah is less predictable, spacier, and a little more unsettling than its predecessor…