Cora Burggraaf / Calefax

The Roaring Twenties

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There are quite a few European recordings of American popular song of the 1920s, several of which even juxtapose American songs with their European classical imitators. This release by Dutch wind quintet Calefax has a distinct take on the idea, with sharp, spiky wind arrangements by bass clarinetist Jelte Althuis and alto saxophonist Raaf Hekkema that further emphasize the connections between the American and European repertories. The album is at its best when these arrangements are showcased: the suite from Kurt Weill's Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera) and that from Gershwin's An American in Paris, both by Hekkema, are ingenious constructions that weave together highlights from each work. The voice of mezzo-soprano Cora Burggraaf, variously channeling Josephine Baker, more bombastic American song, and German singers of the day, is versatile. For this writer it did not all come together, but your mileage (or kilometers per liter) may vary. Channel Classics gets impressively clean audiophile sound out of the Evangelisch Lutherse Kerk in Haarlem. Recommended for those who like the dry Dutch attitude toward American song.

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