Bob James

The Scarlatti Dialogues

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After James' first album of electronic Baroque keyboard music, Rameau, proved to be a charming left-field success, the erstwhile jazz composer/arranger came up with a sequel devoted to the miraculous sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. The results here, though, aren't quite as charming. He takes more timbral and textural liberties, putting unneeded additional weight into the fabric. His keyboard arsenal had been updated considerably from the Rameau record, and these new gleaming digital textures strike the ear as a bit harsh, closer in some cases to Don Dorsey's Disneyland tweaking of Bach and Beethoven than to James' previous record. James also sneaks in an acoustic Steinway, which he uses conversionally at times with the electronic instruments, as well as a lone sampled harpsichord in the "Allegro." The album notes fail to identify the individual sonatas, giving them only speed indications and keys. Unless you're familiar with the music, good luck in identifying them, since there are some 555 sonatas to choose from. The model for electronic Scarlatti remains Wendy Carlos' brilliantly imaginative yet tasteful realizations of four sonatas on her album The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (East Side Digital).

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