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.
What remains consistent is Pierre Fournier's elegant and aristocratic playing, his superb control of the bow and his supple, consistently beautiful tone impressed a whole generation of cellists and music lovers all over the world. Sixty-five years since he first recorded for Decca, we are proud to celebrate the artistry of this most distinguished of cellists and the wealth of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips – presented here together for the very first time in this 25-CD limited edition set.
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 "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.