Richard Rodney Bennett

A Different Side of Sondheim

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This was one of the earliest of Richard Rodney Bennett's vocal recordings; best known as a pianist and composer (in classical and jazz), Bennett's vocal skills prove quietly beguiling on numbers like "I Do Like You" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and "Anyone Can Whistle" from the musical of that title. It is his piano skills that dominate, however, including his ability to improvise on the Sondheim originals, so that "I Do Like You" suddenly zigzags through "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm," or the elegance he brings to "So Many People," from the 1950s-vintage Sondheim student piece Saturday Night. Some of what's here will be familiar -- "I Remember" (also known as "I Remember Sky") from Evening Primrose has been recorded by Judy Collins and Dianne Reeves, among others, but a lot of the rest, such as the haunting piano interlude "Barcelona" from Company, will be new, even to many people casually familiar with the latter work, in which it was hardly a prominent part of the score; similarly, "Night Waltz" from A Little Night Music is hardly as well known as, say, "Send in the Clowns"; and other pieces here are virtually lost Sondheim works. Bennett's quietly expressive singing on "I Remember," "With So Little to Be Sure Of," and "Uptown, Downtown" -- the latter number excised from Follies -- is worth the price of the disc.

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