Bob James is a highly developed pianist, arranger, and composer. This set is notable for its heavyweight cast including David Sanborn, Ron Carter, Idris Muhammad, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Hubert Laws, and Earl Klugh. It also netted the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," which continued to get airplay on smooth jazz stations into the 21st century.
Born in Chelyabinsk in 1973, Lera Auerbach defected from the former Soviet Union to the United States while still in her teens, and she has since garnered much attention as both pianist and composer, notably in her recent work with Gidon Kremer. Written in 1999, Auerbach's 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano amply showcase her stylistic leanings and wide emotional range. Clearly, she's imbibed from the Shostakovich/Schnittke watering hole, as we hear in the frequent sparse textures in extreme registers, petulant dynamic shifts, obsessive pedal points, and caustic, folk-oriented tunes. Auerbach also has figured out what makes Astor Piazzolla tick, and manages to personalize his sultry harmonic idiom. The most interesting moments occur when the composer's original voice pushes her influences out of the way, as in the sudden, unexpected violin cadenza that immediately follows Prelude No. 15's unrelenting dance. This leads to a threnody that gradually dematerializes into a high-register mist, and before you know it, Prelude No. 16 is over. The Postlude and solo violin piece also typify the ease with which Auerbach communicates her ideas. Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe push their collective virtuosity sky-high. Such big playing requires the larger-than-life engineering BIS provides.
Mahal's stint with Warner Bros. was not among his most artistically productive, documenting an era in which he become preoccupied with fusing his brand of blues with Caribbean rhythms and steel drums. This double-CD set contains the entirety of three 1976-1978 LPs for the label, in addition to some unreleased material. Those three LPs – 1976's Music Fuh Ya (Musica Para Tu), 1978's Evolution (The Most Recent), and the 1977 soundtrack to the little-known film Brothers – form most of what's on this compilation. There's a sameness to Mahal's easygoing blues-on-the-beach approach, and a sometimes irritating reliance on Caribbean steel drums for color, that wears down the listener's attention span in such a large dose.
Bob James' most enduring recording is perhaps one of his least adventurous. Full of simple laid-back melodies, light, airy grooves, and quiet backdrops, it's a smooth jazz "masterpiece." It's an enduring part of his catalog and was the launch pad for many movie and television projects, and for a string of hit recordings for the Warner label in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. In effect, it insured his financial security for the future. The set is notable for its heavyweight cast including David Sanborn, Ron Carter, Idris Muhammad, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Hubert Laws, and Earl Klugh. It also netted the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," which continued to get airplay on smooth jazz stations into the 21st century. James is a highly developed pianist, arranger, and composer, and while the music here is as safe as milk, it nonetheless spoke to millions.
Taking the Chilean coup as an example, a group of young officers plan to overthrow the Japanese government on V-J Day. They aim to abolish the post-war constitution, restore the national army and revive the traditional spirit of Japan. As the conspiracy is exposed, the coup squadrons are wiped out one by one. The remaining squadron takes over a night train bound for Tokyo.