For fans of Il Giardino Armonico's flamboyant flourishes and exuberant expressiveness, it's like having all your birthdays at once, being presented with this great Warner Classics 11 CD set. My own feeling is that this "free" approach to Baroque music is at its best when applied to the theatrical music of disc 8 or the seventeenth century Italian music on disc 1. The showmanship and playfulness is an absolute joy in many of those pieces. I'm less satisfied with the interpretations of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, (on discs 10 and 11), which require a different approach, I feel. I like my Bach to be a little more measured and subtle, I suppose. It has no need of the Il Giardino Armonico treatment. On the whole, though, I do love this set and wouldn't be without it.
Vibraphonist Joe Locke offers a fresh look at works by Henry Mancini on this release, as he leads a powerhouse quartet that includes pianist Billy Childs, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Gene Jackson. His dramatic and spacious treatment of one of Mancini's most beloved works, "Moon River," gives the oft-recorded song a very new sound, while another frequently played number, "Days of Wine and Roses," begins with a dreamy introduction before progressing into a head-shaking hard bop arrangement.