This fascinating release comprises live recordings made at the end of 1956, when Miles accepted an offer to tour Europe with a formation called the Birdland All Stars, which also included Lester Young and the Modern Jazz Quartet, along with European musicians such as pianist René Urtréger, bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Christian Garros. We have here the one and only existing evidence of Miles playing with Lester Young and with the MJQ. It also presents a rare occasion to find Miles playing as the sole horn in a quartet format.
The program for the third volume in the Utrecht Quartet's survey of the complete string quartets of Alexander Glazunov consists of two works slightly outside the composer's five quartets: the five-movement Suite for string quartet and the Quintet for string quartet plus second cellist. As in the group's previous volumes, the sonorities are appropriately lush, the vibrato is aptly wide, and the interpretations are straight from the heart.
Noted as a "maximalist" for his densely textured, intricately constructed serial works, Brian Ferneyhough is a challenging composer by any standard, and his uncompromising and intensely demanding scores are some of the most original of the late avant-garde. In such complicated chamber works as Funérailles I (1969-1977) and Funérailles II (1969-1980), both versions for seven strings and harp, Ferneyhough presents thickets of notes and short gestures that are tightly organized, but so abrupt and pointillistic that the lay listener may mistake them as random fragments, not at all as recurring ideas. Similarly, in the rhythmically layered Bone Alphabet for percussion (1991) and the angular Unsichtbare Farben (Invisible Colors) for solo violin (1999), the ear can only take in the surfaces of the music, having no way to grasp the underlying patterns that are employed. Yet it would be a mistake to think these pieces are just cerebral exercises, since Ferneyhough is too good a composer to pass off intellectual doodles as serious work. While there are designs in these pieces only a theoretician may comprehend and abrasive sonorities only a die-hard modernist may love, there are points of tension and release that are easily perceived, and textures and timbres that a prepared listener may appreciate without too much strain.
Having completed what he (and many critics) regarded as his masterwork in The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Charles Mingus' next sessions for Impulse found him looking back over a long and fruitful career. Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus is sort of a "greatest hits revisited" record, as the bassist revamps or tinkers with some of his best-known works. The titles are altered as well - "II B.S." is basically "Haitian Fight Song" (this is the version used in the late-'90s car commercial); "Theme for Lester Young" is "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"; "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" adds a new ending, but just one letter to the title; "Hora Decubitus" is a growling overhaul of "E's Flat Ah's Flat Too"; and "I X Love" modifies "Nouroog," which was part of "Open Letter to Duke"…