This was Alicia de Larrocha’s finest account of Nights in the Gardens of Spain, fully capturing the Andalusian atmosphere of this evocative score. After all, it’s not a work about landscapes and flowers – it’s about love. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos does a superb job of drawing perfume and color out of an English orchestra.
Alicia Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, made a significant impact upon its release in the summer of 2001, catapulting the young singer/songwriter to the front of the neo-soul pack. Critics and audiences were captivated by a 19-year-old singer whose taste and influences ran back further than her years, encompassing everything from Prince to smooth '70s soul, even a little Billie Holiday. In retrospect, it was the idea of Alicia Keys that was as attractive as the record, since soul fans were hungering for a singer/songwriter who seemed part of the tradition without being as spacy as Macy Gray or as hippie mystic as Erykah Badu while being more reliable than Lauryn Hill. Keys was all that, and she had style to spare – elegant, sexy style accentuated by how she never oversang, giving the music a richer feel. It was rich enough to compensate for some thinness in the writing – though it was a big hit, "Fallin'" doesn't have much body to it – which is a testament to Keys' skills as a musician.
Alicia Bridges scored big in 1978 with "I Love the Nightlife (Disco 'Round)," a celebratory disco single that reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100. It was her biggest moment in music and made her self-titled debut, released on Polydor, a definite part of the feel-good disco scene of the late '70s. The blues-tinged "Diamond in the Rough" and "Broken Woman" were mildly successful, but Bridges never regained her disco reign. She released one more album for Polydor, 1979's Play It as It Lays, then settled into a series of independent recordings and compilations, such as 1984's Hocus Pocus, 2007's Say It Sister and 2008's FauxDiva XX – that explored a wider range of inspirations. "I Love the Nightlife" has been included on dozens of disco compilations, including the soundtrack for The Last Days of Disco (which also features an update from Masters at Work's Nuyorican Soul project.
Alicia de Larrocha has been playing these works, the greatest in the repertoire of Spanish piano music, all her life – one of her very first recordings, 40 years ago, was of some of the Goyescas, and I had the pleasure of welcoming her first Iberia ten years after that (10/65); and immersed as she was from her earliest childhood in the authentic tradition (her mother, her aunt and she herself were all trained at Granados’s own school, of which she later became director), she has several times been asked to re-record them. She once said, rather wistfully, that she didn’t consider herself a specialist but that Spanish music was what the public constantly demanded of her. One can sympathize with her if she feels inescapably cast in this mould – but then she shouldn’t be so wonderfully persuasive in it! She employs plenty of subtle rubato but possesses the ability to make it sound as natural as breathing; yet she can also preserve a stimulating tautness of rhythm.