James Drew

The Celestial Cabaret, a Concerto for Pianist and Chamber Orchestra Symphony No. 3

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Called by Nicolas Slonimsky "an authentic American original," Drew has received many awards for composition, taught at Yale University and U.C.L.A. in the 70's, but he is also a illusive figure, a legendary underground jazz pianist who has played with Elvin Jones, Clark Terry, Donald Byrd, and Earl Turbinton. He has created a style entirely his own, each piece beautifully conceived -- "Symphony No. 3" is in one movement of long slow melodies that create a mysterious yet hopeful feeling with very brief percussion punctuations and chordal brass writing, none of these elements suggesting anything you've heard before yet somehow you understand the meaning. The remarkable "Celestial Cabaret" is built featuring the unaccompanied piano soloist in a lyrical, flowing style that is not romantic but like a commentary, free-flowing thought suddenly surrounded by brief strange versions of cabaret music of a very refined type, not satirical and not immediately recognizable. You must hear his music to really get the idea.