Beegie Adair

Centennial Composers Collection [Box Set]

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Pianist Beegie Adair and her jazz trio of Roger Spencer on bass and Chris Brown on drums present to listeners a six-disc set entitled Centennial Composers Box Set. They celebrate 75 songs by the greatest composers of the Great American Songbook and American musical theater genres and offer excellent new interpretations of Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern compositions. Each disc is devoted entirely to the well-known songs of each composer, despite the fact that each of these songwriters had lyricists and other allied collaborators at one time or another throughout their careers. Beegie Adair offers 75 sensational performances on such great songs as Richard Rodgers' "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,""My Romance," "Where or When," and the melancholy "Spring Is Here." Rodgers' compositions focus mainly on his collaborations with Lorenz Hart as opposed to Oscar Hammerstein, and Adair plays them with the same sentiments of the original sets -- rarely straying from the precise and gorgeous melodies so carefully written by Rodgers. Volume two showcases some of Duke Ellington's greatest hits, such as "Take the 'A' Train," "Mood Indigo," "Caravan," and "In My Solitude," which are revisited with the natural beauty Ellington captured with such extraordinary lyricists as Billy Strayhorn, Irving Mills, and Juan Tizol. Adair sets her high standards of pianistic excellence and maintains them throughout this brilliant collection of Ellingtonia. She is never "kinda Dukish," but romantic and swinging in her own special way. She is splendid on volume three, which spotlightsHoagy Carmichael's most intriguing compositions, including "The Nearness of You," which was a longtime favorite of vocalist Sarah Vaughan. Adair tells the story behind the song on "Memphis in June" and does so with the same musical brilliance that Carmichael played himself. On volume four, "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Fascinating Rhythm," the everlasting "Embraceable You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," and "Summertime" are served up in the inimitable style of George Gershwin and his brother, Ira Gershwin. Again, Adair reaches inside the composer's many moods to brilliantly reinvent his music in the 21st century. These durable Broadway tunes, taken from the theatrical productions of Oh Kay, Lady Be Good, Girl Crazy, Shall We Dance?, and Porgy and Bess, respectively, receive the same sensitivity and excitement that continue to incite new audiences to re-experience these songs time and time again. On volume five, Beegie Adair and company return Irving Berlin's classics to their original splendor with great performances of "Cheek to Cheek," "Always," "Blue Skies," the beautiful waltz "Remember," and "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody." Berlin's holiday and patriotic music, "White Christmas" and "God Bless America," are still performed. On disc number six, featuring the songs of Jerome Kern, listeners are treated to Adair's up-tempo classicism and traditional courtships of Kern's Academy award-winning composition "The Way You Look Tonight" and his Tony award-winning collaborations from Showboat with Oscar Hammerstein on "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and "Old Man River." With all due respect to many reissues of classic Broadway tunes by various recording labels, this box set sets a new standard for music that has stood the test of time but is played in a different time and space by a modern woman. Adair is probably the first female to tackle a project of this magnitude and therefore makes this set an innovative jewel in terms of accomplishing "the impossible"; it proves that great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance. This entire six-disc collection is an excellent 100-year salute to six great American composers and a must-have reference tool for music educators. It makes an excellent gift or addition to any musical library and is also highly recommended for your listening, creative, dancing, or romantic pleasures.

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