Friday, September 28, 2012

Music Video Round-Up for last week of Sep 2012

Let's look at 5 movies in which music played a character or a large part in the shaping of our gaze at the characters.  In Francois Girard's The Red Violin, the violin and its theme act as threads that hold the movie together.  In the Swedish movie Elvira Madigan Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 21 leaves viewers with a forboding feeling, even with its uplifting notes.

Who can think of Federico Fellini's movies without remembering the soundtracks composed by Nino Rota? When I see photographs of the famous actors that appeared in these movies, Rota's musical themes run through my brain.  Here we look at the tragic circus music from La Strada.  Just thinking of the theme music played on a lone trumpet brings tears to my eyes.

Anyone who has watched David Lean's Doctor Zhivago has Laura's Theme running through their consciousness.  And a lesser known French movie, Heart in Winter features the music of French Impressionist composer Maurice Ravel.

1. The Red Violin

2. Elvira Madigan

3. Heart in Winter

4. Fellini’s La Strada

5. Doctor Zhivago

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In review--Alive & Well, Thank You

Fred Hersch Trio
Alive at the Vanguard
Palmetto Records

This fantastic jazz trio featuring Fred Hersch (piano), John H├ębert (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums) delivers an extraordinary live performance on the double-CD set Alive at the Vanguard.  I actually received this CD back in July and have already listened to the CDs several times.  However, three weeks ago when I set out to review the recording, CD #1 broke in half in my player.  I finally received the replacement.  Imagine that this performance is so hot that it breaks the CD in half.  Now, that sizzles and so do the tracks on the album which include mostly originals by Hersch topped with standards by Jule Styne (I Fall In Love Too Easily), Sonny Rollins (Doxy), Charlie Parker (Segment), Ornette Colman (Lonely Woman/Nardis) and two by Hammerstein.

The instrumentals flow well and delight in the manner of standard jazz, but possess more bite, especially with the edgy Segment and improvisation that often leads away and back to the center of the songs.  The song titles would imply that the music follows an impressionist vein and it does leave tangible images in the wake, not easy for instrumental songs to do.  The opener of CD #1, Havana implies Cuban music with the ostinato rhythm played on the piano and the drums implying a clave beat.  Rising, Falling feels as melancholic as a cold autumn day where as, the staccato romp Segment portrays piano sarcasm.  CD #2 offers more of the same, except that the musicians take the energy level up a few notches.  Jackalope with a wow-factor could easily leave a listener breathless with its rapid arpeggios.  Followed by The Wind/Moon and Sand which glides along at a romantic pace, I could see this song highlighting a dinner quiet and reflective dinner party.

Why did such a wonderful recording need to wait two months for a review? Timing is everything I suppose and some music needs time to brew, and simmer, until the moment feels right.  And one thing Alive at the Vanguard does well is to capture the moment.