All the stars were out for this concert celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 50th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In addition to being a retrospective of Lloyd Webber's hits to date, it also featured many of the stars that premiered the songs or who helped to make them famous, including Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, Glenn Close, Boyzone, Donny Osmond, Julian Lloyd Webber, and Antonio Banderas (who had recently starred in the film of Evita). Sarah performed four songs during the two hour concert, which included "Pie Jesu" with Ben De'Ath, "The Phantom of the Opera" with Antonio Banderas, "All I Ask of You" with Michael Ball, and "The Music of the Night."
At first glance, this looks like the perfect Christmas present for Cuban music enthusiasts: a finely packaged box set that includes three CDs, released to mark what would have been the 100th birthday last month of the great singer and guitarist who became best known for his work with the Buena Vista Social Club, and who enjoyed worldwide success until his death in 2003 at the age of 95. But it's not quite what it seems. It's described as an "exhaustive overview" of Segundo's work, but it only covers his final recordings from 1996-2003. Which is unfortunate, for this is surely the right time to release a comprehensive retrospective of his extraordinary career.
The 20th century has not been kind to most standard classical music forms. The piano sonata, the concerto, the symphony – none of them have disappeared entirely, but none remain in a state that could be called even remotely healthy. The same was true of the string quartet until 1973, when violinist David Harrington got some friends together to play contemporary music and offered his old high-school composition teacher a bag of donuts if he'd write a piece for them…
Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass add plenty of spice to this Christmas jazz CD, not only with superb, fresh charts but a few surprising selections. The rich brass and reeds carry the deliberate rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which segues into a perky Latin-flavored chart of "I'll Be Home for Christmas." "Away in a Manger" is not the commonly heard melody but one first written in 1887, though the music will likely be familiar, even if one doesn't associate it with the well-known lyrics. The lush setting of "The Christmas Song," which likely set Mel Tormé and Bob Wells for life with royalty checks due to its many recordings, showcases the leader's valve trombone and pianist David Restivo. "My Favorite Things," originally written for The Sound of Music, has gradually been transformed into double duty as a Christmas carol; this swinging interpretation works very well. Johnny Mandel, the composer of many memorable melodies, deserves greater recognition for his gorgeous piece "A Christmas Love Song"; this arrangement deserved to help put it on the jazz map. Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass consistently delivered first-rate music throughout their existence, this holiday CD no exception.