Due likely to his other careers as a pop artist, producer, classical composer, actor, and fashion model, Ryuichi Sakamoto the film scorer has averaged less than one film a year since his delightfully melodic debut, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence in 1983. But the Academy Award winner (The Last Emperor) has clearly eschewed quantity for quality, and his often-chilling music for Love Is the Devil (the first feature by vidoegrapher John Maybury–a disturbing portrait of artist Francis Bacon and his dark, obsessive relationship with his model/lover, George Dyer) is no exception. Sakamoto has long resisted composing mere musical narration for his film assignments; here he gets inside the characters by using the diverse palette and electronic techniques gleaned from his often cutting-edge pop work. This masterful melange of samples, treated piano, electronics, and white noise plays like a modern horror masterpiece, an eerie techno-concerto that owes more to Sakamoto's days as a student of electronic music and the avant-garde than to his sunny turn as leader of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Think Bernard Herrmann displaced by an ocean and half-a-century of technology.
Widely considered the creative apex of television scoring, Basil Poledouris' sweeping Lonesome Dove remains the most compelling and effective orchestral music ever written for the small screen – it's also the best Western score to appear in any medium in the last quarter century, with an eloquence and slap-leather authenticity all its own. Poledouris' beautifully poignant score captures the fading grandeur of the American West in vivid detail – while its panoramic arrangements evoke the wide-open spaces of a land not yet overrun by highways, skyscrapers, and strip malls, Poledouris is most effective when exploring the rugged yet tender character of the men and women who made the frontier their own. Sonic Images' soundtrack contains roughly one-third of Poledouris' complete four-and-a-half-hour score – perhaps someday a box set will assemble Lonesome Dove's music in full, but for now this highlight reel does the trick.
Lewis, the director of the Modern Jazz Quartet until his death in 2001, moved away from improvisation into composition when he formed Orchestra U.S.A. for this 1963 recording. John Lewis formed Orchestra U.S.A. as a vehicle to potentially explore any composed or improvised music, blending elements of jazz and classical music by recruiting some first-rate players from both worlds. The result is one of the more successful third stream recordings. There are two string quartets, plus woodwinds, brass, and a rhythm section present. Collaborating with Gunther Schuller, who conducted the group and did some of the orchestrations, Lewis expanded his work "Three Little Feelings" from its original chart for brass, featuring outstanding solos by alto saxophonist Phil Woods and guitarist Jim Hall.
Kavakos played like a dream eliciting an almost physical pleasure from the trueness of his intonation and the way in which certain phrases, certain chords landed. ~ Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin / Ingo Metzmacher, BBC Proms, The Independent, August 2010
Resonance Records goes out of its way again to unearth yet another significant chapter in jazz history, and once again, it's one that relatively few fans have ever heard. This performance of Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth Big Band was captured during George Wein's Kool Jazz Festival at Avery Fisher Hall. It was broadcast on NPR's Jazz Alive program, but this double disc contains the entire performance, with more than 40 minutes of additional music.
Pain Of Salvation - Entropia (1997). This debut recording (originally released in 1997) by Swedish prog metal band Pain of Salvation proved to be a well-needed breath of fresh air for a genre that was full of self-parody and self-indulgence. Led by vocalist/lyricist Daniel Gildenlow, their unique style draws from influences such as Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, Faith No More, King's X, Pink Floyd, and Frank Zappa, to name a few. Their theatrical, concept-like approach is offered in three chapters and is delivered with emotion, intelligence, integrity, passion, and poignancy. These qualities, which are often strived for but rarely attained, seem to come from the number of years the band spent together honing their craft…