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Jazz Nocturne: American Concertos of the Jazz Age

Audio Samples

>Johnson, James P. : Yamekraw
>     A Negro Rhapsody, for piano & orchestra
>Reser, Harry : Suite for banjo & orchestra
>Gershwin, George : Rhapsody in Blue
>Suesse, Dana Nadine : Jazz Nocturne, for piano
>Suesse, Dana Nadine : Concerto in Three Rhythms, piano & orchestra

Album Summary

>Johnson, James P. : Yamekraw
>Reser, Harry : Suite for banjo & orchestra
>Gershwin, George : Rhapsody in Blue
>Suesse, Dana Nadine : Jazz Nocturne, for piano
>Suesse, Dana Nadine : Concerto in Three Rhythms, piano & orchestra
Performers Conductor Ensemble
  • >
Composers

Notes & Reviews:

George Gershwin's immortal Rhapsody in Blue is heard here in its complete original version for jazz band as arranged by Ferde Grofé. The second theme from her Jazz Nocturne became a popular hit when Bing Crosby crooned it under the title My Silent Love. Master banjoist Harry F. Reser's exuberant Suite demands an extraordinary technique from the soloist. "Fats" Waller was the pianist for the première of African-American composer James Price Johnson's blues-inflected Yamekraw.

All Music Guide - V. Vasan
This unique album is a wonderful snapshot of American jazz in an orchestral setting. Most classical music aficionados are familiar with George Gershwin and his works such as Rhapsody in Blue, but there are also a number of less-famous composers who wrote around the same time who are no less brilliant. These composers also interacted with and influenced each other. For example, James Price Johnson also wrote a rhapsody, entitled Yamekraw, Negro Rhapsody, which is a sophisticated work full of tempo changes, varied rhythms, and various moods and character. (William Grant Still orchestrated this piece.) Yamekraw swings and is syncopated, giving it a very dance-like feel, and the Hot Springs Music Festival Symphony Orchestra does an excellent job bringing the music alive without ever making it rigid. Not only do it play beautifully on this first piece, but also through the rest of the album, where it truly captures all the moods jazz pieces require while never losing strong classical technique.

It is much to conductor Richard Rosenberg's credit that all of the pieces have energy and good musical taste. The Suite for banjo & orchestra surprisingly showcases the instrument much like a violin, and even a mandolin in the second movement. Two works by Dana Suesse are another joy to hear. Her Jazz Nocturne begins with an ethereal feel that conjures up the night, and then a jazz melody enters on the piano. The piece is romantic, with a sweeping melody in the strings (not surprisingly, a popular song was based on one of the melodies in this piece). Suesse's Concerto in Three Rhythms is a complex piece that draws on syncopations, active dialogues between instruments, and long, legato lines in the strings. The third movement is especially exciting, an orchestrally fleshed-out rag that shows the strength of this talented yet relatively unknown composer. Suesse and Gershwin were well acquainted with each other, so it is fitting that Rhapsody in Blue should also be included on this album. What sets apart this recording of an arguably overplayed piece is its interpretation: it is like a work of jazz that happens to be played by an orchestra, rather than an orchestra trying to play a jazz composition. Pianist Tatiana Roitman's style is clean and bright, accompanied by a sprightly orchestra. The legato lines are never schmaltzy, but crisp. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable.

American Record Guide
Yet ironically, the unveiling of this entertaining and obscure group of concertos, snappily played by four different pianists, shows that Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is still the masterpiece of the genre. Both in the colorful manipulation of jazz-classical themes and their intrinsic quality, the Rhapsody is far more sophisticated and satisfying than anything else here. This is not just another recording, but the premiere of the unabridged version of the Ferde Grofe manuscript for jazz band. It sounds much closer to jazz and less to classical than what we normally hear; the band growls and struts in a leaner, meaner way than a large orchestra and is enlivened by Don Vappie's banjo - a kind of Dixieland continuo. Tatiana Roitman's piano playing is more clattery and percussive than the norm - a deliberate effect, no doubt. Readers familiar with Richard Rosenberg's other Naxos albums (especially his Gottschalk) know what to expect from his Hot Springs Music Festival Symphony: performances short on nuance but long on rhythmic abandon. Nothing wrong with that approach in this repertory.

Fanfare
There are a few recordings of Suesse's solo piano pieces that are worth checking out. Even at their worst, they have a dated '20s charm to them and there's no law that compels you to digest them in one sitting. The most famous of them is easily Jazz Nocturne, to which Edward Heyman (against the wishes of Suesse's publisher) added words and which became the jazz and pop standard My Silent Love, a huge hit after Bing Crosby sang it in a movie (I assume the publisher got over it). Her only other real pop hits were The Night Is Young and You're So Beautiful, and You Oughta Be In Pictures. I assume that this piano-and-orchestra arrangement of Jazz Nocturne by Carrol Huxley was done to make the piece fit in better with the rest of the program, which it does.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Hot Springs Field House, Hot Springs National Park, Ark.

This unique album is a wonderful snapshot of American jazz in an orchestral setting. Most classical music aficionados are familiar with George Gershwin and his works such as Rhapsody in Blue, but there are also a number of less-famous composers who wrote around the same time who are no less brilliant. These composers also interacted with and influenced each other. For example, James Price Johnson also wrote a rhapsody, entitled Yamekraw, Negro Rhapsody, which is a sophisticated work full of tempo changes, varied rhythms, and various moods and character. (William Grant Still orchestrated this piece.) Yamekraw swings and is syncopated, giving it a very dancelike feel, and the Hot Springs Music Festival Symphony Orchestra does an excellent job bringing the music alive without ever making it rigid. Not only do it play beautifully on this first piece, but also through the rest of the album, where it truly captures all the moods jazz pieces require while never losing strong classical technique. It is much to conductor Richard Rosenberg's credit that all of the pieces have energy and good musical taste. The Suite for banjo & orchestra surprisingly showcases the instrument much like a violin, and even a mandolin in the second movement. Two works by Dana Suesse are another joy to hear. Her Jazz Nocturne begins with an ethereal feel that conjures up the night, and then a jazz melody enters on the piano. The piece is romantic, with a sweeping melody in the strings (not surprisingly, a popular song was based on one of the melodies in this piece). Suesse's Concerto in Three Rhythms is a complex piece that draws on syncopations, active dialogues between instruments, and long, legato lines in the strings. The third movement is especially exciting, an orchestrally fleshed-out rag that shows the strength of this talented yet relatively unknown composer. Suesse and Gershwin were well acquainted with each other, so it is fitting that Rhapsody in Blue should also be included on this album. What sets apart this recording of an arguably overplayed piece is its interpretation: it is like a work of jazz that happens to be played by an orchestra, rather than an orchestra trying to play a jazz composition. Pianist Tatiana Roitman's style is clean and bright, accompanied by a sprightly orchestra. The legato lines are never schmaltzy, but crisp. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable.



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Works Details

>Johnson, James P. : Yamekraw :: A Negro Rhapsody, for piano & orchestra
  • Performers: Richard Rosenberg; Gary Hammond (Piano)
  • Conductor: Richard Rosenberg
  • Running Time: 15 min. 32 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Reser, Harry : Suite for banjo & orchestra
  • Performers: Richard Rosenberg; Papa Vappie (Banjo)
  • Conductor: Richard Rosenberg
  • Running Time: 10 min. 27 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1925

>Gershwin, George : Rhapsody in Blue
  • Performers: Richard Rosenberg; Tatiana Roitman (Piano)
  • Conductor: Richard Rosenberg
  • Running Time: 16 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1924

>Suesse, Dana Nadine : Jazz Nocturne, for piano
  • Performers: Richard Rosenberg; Peter Mintun (Piano)
  • Conductor: Richard Rosenberg
  • Running Time: 4 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1931

>Suesse, Dana Nadine : Concerto in Three Rhythms, piano & orchestra
  • Performers: Michael Gurt (Piano); Richard Rosenberg
  • Conductor: Richard Rosenberg
  • Running Time: 22 min. 11 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1932