Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pinchas Zukerman & Claude Bolling – Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano

Twentieth century French music holds special position of many avant-garde directions. From late romanticism composers in France were developing their original language and style. It is hard to imagine Eric Satie, Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Faure or Olivier Messiaen on the ground of any other culture. It’s also interesting how jazz interfered with French popular and artistic music. Paris was first stop on continental Europe for big tide of American musicians looking for better life in Old World. This bring a lots of inspiration for musicians of various genres and styles. Some jazz ideas one can find in Darius Milhaud’s scores. The other perspective was French jazz connected to traditional concert music – Jacques Lousier Trio playing jazz versions of history music and Claude Bolling composing music connecting jazz style with academic methods of composition.
Claude Bolling is jazz pianist, renowned composer of movie music and a real institution in crossover between jazz and popular classical music. He created his own style of music sharing traditional melody and coloristic harmony with syncopated rhythm, making music mutually in jazz and classical style. His works were original solution of the dilemma and some kind of opposition to Gunther Schuller idea of third stream music. One of first greatest Bolling’s successes was Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio recorded in 1973 with Jean-Pierre Rampal. After this composition Bolling received an order for similar Suite for great young virtuoso of violin and viola, Pinchas Zukerman. He was one of prominent soloists in seventies and eighties, equally perfect in classical concert repertoire and in chamber music but primarily valued as a performer of eighteenth century concertos. On his level of perfection he can play popular melodies or jazz or anything else. He is versatile and has good sense of humor – this kind of distance helps when comes to play music of non classical genres. In 1979 CBS released Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano with Pinchas Zukerman playing volin and viola. Jazz Piano Trio was exactly the same as before: Claude Bolling was playing piano with section of bass player Max Hediguer and drummer Marcel Sabiani.

Claude Bolling – Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano (1979)

However beginning fragments opening Romance are closer to impressionism than any other fragment of Bolling’s work, the first two parts of the suite – Romance and Caprice – confirm romantic background of this cycle, even if later come some twentieth century inspirations. Free flowing of melodic ideas, contrast between emotional depth and brilliant virtuoso effects should not be misleading – this is much closer to parlor music of 19th century than anything else. Impressionistic direction has its clue as well. Finally post bop jazz harmony has more to do with musical coloristic than with chord progression. Harmonic sense was always strong point of Claude Bolling’s musical temperament. His second side was jazz emotionalism, sometimes maybe even a kind of loose posing taken from fifties bebop club sessions. Fragments of stride piano in Bolling’s compositions are always decided and full of energy. Gavotte begins as stylized court dance but gradually comes to intense polyphonic expression. In Tango Zukerman plays viola, his soft pizzicato is dark and sensitive. Piano plays in higher register with staccato giving taste of virtuoso passages.
Slavonic Dance has all the characteristics of excellent composition. Romantic violin and jazz piano are opposition, a clear drive section and dialogues between the instruments being straight variations are the hallmarks of this great part. Ragtime gives this cycle great impact of marching rhythm and some loosely  phrases in trio segment deepen its intensity. Valse Lente begins with charming lightness of violin phrase and nice accompaniment. In trio it goes a bit too far towards café lounge, even if it’s still nice composed and well played. Hora after first episode which is too much heavy, gathers pace and gives violinist chance for brave passages and some precision articulation. This is not the level of Paganini or Sarasate virtuoso requirements but in this kind of crossover it could be quite impressive. I could, were it not that in many passages one can hear that Zukerman has a large technical reserve but he still plays holding his breath. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!

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