Bach: Goldberg Variations Simone Dinnerstein, piano (Telarc CD-80692)
Simone Dinnerstein is a young pianist who has released for her initial commercial recording one of the touchstones of the pianistic canon. Upon first listening to this recording, I was immediately struck by the gentleness of her playing, particularly in the opening Aria. I simply have never heard this music played so "femininely."
At first I was hesitant to utter, much less put in writing, such an opinion. I don't want to be dismissed as a male chauvinist. Still, after listening to this recording many times, I do find that it does seem to exude something of a feminine aura-but that is not a bad thing by any means. The music is presented somewhat smoothly and lyrically; however, that does not mean that the performance is without dynamics and vitality. There is great beauty in Dinnerstein's rendition, which I have found myself returning to often over the past couple of months. The Goldberg Variations is one of those musical compositions that truly seem eternal, something that has existed since the beginning of time and will endure forever. Dinnerstein captures something of that eternal essence in her thoughtful and committed performance.
Although in the final analysis I still prefer Gould's more energetic touch, I enjoy Dinnerstein's version, which is quite compelling, and I plan to keep it in my collection. If you are a fan of the Goldbergs on piano, this really is a CD that you ought to audition.
Paul Bley: Solo in Mondsee (ECM B0009491-02)
This music starts with the sound of a distant thunderclap as Bley strikes the strings at the bottom end of his Bosendorfer Imperial Grand. It also comes with the force of a thunderclap to realize that Bley will be 75 years old in November. His first solo album in 25 years shows that time has not diminished his imaginatively musical skills; indeed, if anything, his musical vision is more compelling than ever.
It is hard to describe what this recording is like. The music, which is improvised throughout, is organized into 10 "Mondsee Variations" (Mondsee being the location in Austria where ECM producer Manfred Eicher invited Bley to make this recording). But even within the variations, there are variations. The music twists and turns and dances, sounding at one moment mysteriously familiar and mysteriously unexpected the next.
As the music unfolds, you find yourself following along in your mind, wondering where Bley is going to take you next. Will there be another familiar sounding phrase, or will there be an abrupt shift of mood? The real wonder in all this is how it all hangs together-you never feel as though you are lost as you follow Bley through this mysterious musical landscape. You will find yourself smiling as you hear phrases that remind you of tender moments in your life--of people you have known, songs you have heard, of ideas that you have wanted to pursue.
Solo in Mondsee is a document of delight, at once sentimental and unsettling and simultaneously stimulating and satisfying. This is an absolutely wonderful recording that will bring joy and wonderment to many musical souls.
Homecoming: Eddie Daniels Live at the Iridium (IPO Recordings, Inc. IPOC1012)
Eddie Daniels is a talented and versatile musician who has recorded both jazz and classical music. Homecoming is a jazz recording featuring Daniels on both tenor sax and clarinet backed by Joe Locke on vibes, Tom Ranier on piano, Dave Finck on bass, and Joe La Barbera on drums. With a 2-CD program that includes both standards and originals, ballads and up-tempo romps, Daniels and his bandmates provide as solid set of tasty jazz that should appeal to a broad spectrum of jazz fans.
Especially enjoyable is the interplay between Daniels on clarinet and Locke on vibes on several of the cuts, such as "Under the Wire," where they really get into trading off with each other. Another highlight is the band's take on John Lewis's classic "Django," which provides more than 14 minutes of musical pleasure. With good sound and informative liner notes to boot, this is a first-class production all the way, well worth seeking out.
Bruce Hornsby/Christian McBride/Jack DeJohnette: Camp Meeting (Legacy 88697 09883-2)
Pianist/singer/songwriter Bruce Hornsby has always shown an interest in jazz, but this is his first out-and-out jazz recording. Joined by veteran drummer Jack DeJohnette, who really shines throughout this recording, and (relatively)...