The various examinations on recordings and in prose of the intersection between jazz and the concert music tradition don't make it clear that the sound that attracted many classical composers and performers between the two world wars was not just jazz in general, but blues. Of course, in the popular imagination the meanings of the words jazz and blues also overlapped. Not all (or even the majority) of the music on this British release is built specifically on the blues harmonic pattern, but the program is an interesting mix of Gershwin, whose uses of the blues were the subtlest of all, ragtime both American and European in the form of Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk, blues-flavored pieces by Copland (the misspelling of the delightful Ukelele Serenade is original) and Ravel, and the highly experimental and not much played Sonata No. 2 for violin with accompaniment of piano and drum of George Antheil, calling for only one player on the two accompanying instruments. There is also an improvisation by pianist Wayne Marshall, extending Gershwin's own style. All this casts a new light on the blues-jazz influence on concert music, bringing out the melodic-harmonic aspect of that influence more than the rhythmic, and the entire program brings a pleasing melancholy effect. Novel as the program is, most of it (maybe not Antheil) would have seemed reasonably familiar to Jascha Heifetz, the most coolly precise of the Russian old-school violinists who nevertheless had a great affection for Gershwin and for jazz rhythms. His arrangements are featured on three works: a suite of music from Porgy and Bess, the Three Preludes of Gershwin, and Golliwog's Cakewalk. Violinist Matthew Trusler lacks flair in these, but in both the wilder Antheil and the more foursquare arrangements of Joplin rags (these are done in the violin-and-piano version of Itzhak Perlman) he's quite convincing. A useful and instructive set of performances for anyone broadly interested in the American popular influence on concert music.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Porgy and Bess Suite|