Patrick Ayrton / Thomas Gould / Les Inventions

Some Like It Plucked

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The affinity between Baroque music and jazz, often remarked upon since the days of the Modern Jazz Quartet and Gunther Schuller's "Third Stream," has not really been fully explored beyond the surface similarity: that both are rooted in a steadily progressing bass line. Consider this limited-edition (and numbered!) release by harpsichordist Patrick Ayrton. Hearing Gershwin's I Got Rhythm played, however vigorously, on the harpsichord at the beginning may cause you to ask whether this experiment was really necessary, but persist: there are several types of fusion here, and the variety is very attractive. For one thing, Ayrton touches on the actual Baroque only once, in Alec Templeton's Bach Goes to Town (Prelude and Fugue in Swing). He has another popular song treatment, Vernon Duke's I Can't Get Started with You, and a jazz piece, Artie Shaw's Summer Ridge Drive, as well as probably the only work written for this particular combination of forces, Joseph Horowitz's Jazz Harpsichord Concerto. Mostly the program features works of the 20th century that flirt with either the Baroque, jazz, or both. It's quite intriguing to reflect on how both these languages were unfamiliar to classical composers, who had to strive to assimilate them. Consider Alfred Schnittke's Suite in the Old Style (1965), which sounds a bit like Fritz Kreisler's phony Baroque violin pieces but hardly like actual Baroque music. Likewise, sample some of the Esquisses de jazz (Jazz Sketches) by the doomed Erwin Schulhoff, whose oeuvre seems more multifaceted with each passing year: they are certainly marked by jazz, but are only lightly jazzy. Throughout, the fusion is approached from different directions, whether that of improvisation (Poulenc's 7ème Improvisation) to genre (Stravinsky's "Marche Royale" from L'Histoire du Soldat, which has a very jazzy feel despite the fact that Stravinsky had hardly heard jazz in 1918). The whole thing effectively situates the neoclassic interest in jazz as part of a larger picture and is a great deal of fun besides. Recommended.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 01:29
2 03:15
Suite in the Old Style
3 03:38
4 02:18
5 03:08
6 02:26
7 03:46
8 02:34
9 02:15
Esquisses de jazz
11 02:44
12 02:01
13 01:52
14 01:44
15 02:00
L' Histoire du Soldat
16 02:58
17 03:06
18 03:29
19 01:59
Jazz Harpsichord Concerto
20 06:43
21 05:51
22 04:12
blue highlight denotes track pick