Longtime fans of reclusive Romanian pianist Radu Lupu will no doubt already know his handful of recordings of Brahms' piano music made in the '70s and early '80s for Decca – his recklessly imperious F minor Sonata, romantically dramatic D minor Concerto, inwardly brooding D minor Variations, and richly autumnal late rhapsodies, ballades, and intermezzos. But fans of Brahms' piano music who don't already know Lupu's recordings will be overwhelmed by what they'd heretofore missed. Lupu's full, round tone, his effortless virtuosity, his poetic intensity, and his soulful expressivity combine in unified performances of consummate artistry.
Strange as it seems, the main criticism about this CD and about Kenny Burrell's playing during the past couple decades is that he is often overly tasteful. On this set (which has six unaccompanied guitar solos, four duets with bassist Ray Drummond, and three trio numbers with Drummond and drummer Yoron Israel), Burrell is so loving of the melodies that he adds very little of himself other than his beautiful tone. Although the tunes are superior, none of these versions are definitive and the mellow results rarely rise above the level of background music.
Journeyman jazz trumpeter Wayne Bergeron delivers a lush and fiery big-band performance on his 2007 album Plays Well with Others. Featuring Bergeron's own big band, the album also includes a guest appearance by iconic high-note trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. Much of the music here is crisply urbane, swinging mainstream jazz in the "little big band" tradition and should appeal to fans of acutely orchestrated ensemble jazz.Bergeron's high-note trumpet work is astonishing.
The 1987 edition of the Brubeck Quartet featured pianist Brubeck, his son Chris on electric bass and bass trombone, clarinetist Bill Smith and drummer Randy Jones. In addition to remakes of "Blue Rondo à la Turk," "Strange Meadowlark" and "Swing Bells," the leader contributed six new originals including "I See, Satie" and a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz called "Dizzy's Dream." Bill Smith, who uses electronics with taste on his clarinet during a few songs, has long been a major asset to the later Brubeck Quartets. This is one of their better Concord CDs.
Beside Marty Paich, none of Mel Tormé's collaborators exerted such a large influence on the singer's career as George Shearing, the pianist whose understated, expressive accompaniment contributed to Tormé's resurgence during the early '80s. Their six excellent albums together – two of which, An Evening With… and Top Drawer, earned Grammy awards – proved that classic vocal music had outlasted the long night that was the '70s, and emerged to become a timeless American genre. The pair's work for Concord was usually recorded live in a trio or quartet setting; leaving much space for Shearing solos, Tormé occasionally reprised his big standards ("A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Lullaby of Birdland," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill"), but often searched for more obscure material he could make his own, and often succeeded. Tormé and Shearing were restless innovators, taking on a full album of World War II standards, medleys devoted to songs about New York and by Duke Ellington, and a stunningly broad range of material: "Oleo," "Lili Marlene," "How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?," and "Dat Dere."