The first major blues and jazz singer on record and one of the most powerful of all time, Bessie Smith rightly earned the title of "The Empress of the Blues." Even on her first records in 1923, her passionate voice overcame the primitive recording quality of the day and still communicates easily to today's listeners (which is not true of any other singer from that early period). At a time when the blues were in and most vocalists (particularly vaudevillians) were being dubbed "blues singers," Bessie Smith simply had no competition.
John W. Johnnie Pate (born December 5, 1923, Chicago Heights, Illinois) enjoyed a notable career as a bassist from the late 40s up until the early '60s in the Chicago area, gaining a solid reputation as a strong player in the Oscar Pettiford mold and enlightened composer. On these 1954-1956 sessions for the Talisman and Gig labels, he leads a trio featuring Ronnell Bright, who was a swift, resourceful young pianist whose style recalls the early Oscar Peterson. With drummer Charles Walton, this bright, polished and swinging trio began to be recognized while working first at the London House and then at the Blue Note, where they were the house band in 1954-1955 accompanying great singers such as Lurlean Hunter, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Audrey Morris and Carmen McRae.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
The names of Johann Sebastian Bach, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff do not necessarily conjure images and sounds of jazz in one's mind, that is until one has listened to recordings by the Classical Jazz Quartet. Although these musicians utilize the same instruments as the Modern Jazz Quartet, they are in no way clones or copycats of that groundbreaking group. They have very much their own sound and style. This is not surprising given the huge talent of the musicians involved; all four are virtuosos on their respective instruments. The themes, although composed in a different time and place, become excellent vehicles for complex, sometimes, bluesy, often swinging and always fresh improvisations in the hands of these musicians. And although one might think of any recording billed as "classical meets jazz" as background music, this music definitely is not. The double CD consists of the group's three previously released recordings, plus one bonus track featuring their interpretation of Handel's Hallelujah.
To celebrate the legendary David Oistrakh, for many, one of the greatest violinists ever, Deutsche Grammophon presents a 22-CD box set which brings together for the first time all his recordings for DG, Decca, Philips & Westminster/Melodiya.