Sunday, April 30, 2017

Keith Jarrett — Treasure Island

April 30 - INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY celebrated under the auspices of UNESCO since 2012


   From the beginning of his recording career Keith Jarrett was musician of huge possibilities. As multi instrumentalist he was playing piano, harpsichord, pipe organ, soprano saxophone, flute, recorder, harmonica, guitar, bass guitar, drums and various percussion instruments. He was also songwriter and singer experimenting with popular song. As composer he was developing some creative continuations of third stream idea. He was as well stylistically versatile as a performer, playing not only various styles of jazz, but also folk rock and giving well established performances of baroque, classical and 20th century music. The catalogue of his albums is huge both for its volume and variety. Considering Jarrett’s achievements in jazz as main stream of his activity, it’s still not easy to point an outward direction or style for whole of his work. Probably the best answer would be defining own style as weave of personal tendencies and generation knowledge, the value system and music technology. And with every expression of these qualities Jarrett’s individual style looks more consistent.
   Keith Jarrett was associated with Impulse label for two years, and in such short period he recorded four albums starting with Fort Yawuh, (rec. live February 24, 1973), continued with Treasure Island and concluded with two albums recorded during one session October 9-10, 1974: Death and The Flower (released 1975) and Back Hand (released 1974). Second album recorded for Impulse was studio recording. Sessions took place in Generation Sound Studios in New York City on February 27 and 28, 1974. Treasure Island was recorded with Dewey Redman playing tenor saxophone, Charlie Haden playing bass, Paul Motian playing drums with guest performances of guitarist Sam Brown (in Treasure Island and Sister Fortune). Apart piano, Keith Jarrett played soprano saxophone in Angles (Without Edges). In effect is affordably inexpensive session gave results of widely developed project.

Keith Jarrett — Treasure Island (1974)

   The idea of Treasure Island was to melt various directions of contemporary jazz, including fusion and soul jazz, funk and free jazz, progressive and popular music. Such attitude was young Jarrett’s idée fixe; he was expanding stylistic frontiers beyond any borders. The more contradictory these currents were, the more interesting was stylistic background and its final effect looked better. Like in treasury found on tropical island we have everything precious in one coffer, here we have various elements of tradition closed in one program. And the best feature is the structure of this album – all compositions are complementary and every element is perfectly set with the others. Sad and joyous, light and heavy moments are balanced and magnificently displayed. If he didn’t develop his own stylistic way, this could be Jarrett’s style as well.
   Interesting mistake happened in my copy of Treasure Island. It is European edition re-released by Impulse in February 2016. The second side of the record contains one more track: Sister Fortune which is last song on B-side, has been cut two times – at the beginning of this side and at the end. Maybe it was intended action to give listener a chance to listen this nice piece in better quality, maybe it was calculated as a provocation showing how passive listeners we are. Whatever it was, it would be nice to read publisher’s information on this. Considering musical quality this album deserves four stars for originality and strong position in early discography of great pianist.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Mstislav Rostropovitch conducts Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6 'Pathetique'


   As one of great personalities in music of second half of 20th century, Mstislav Rostropovitch was versatile artist of many qualities. His cello virtuosity and interpretative skills made his name widely recognized as soloist and conductor. Starting from 1962 stage of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in Gorky Opera (today Nizhni Novgorod) he was active also as opera conductor. In 1967 he was conducting Eugene Onegin at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. From 1977 he was director and conductor of U.S. National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. As Russian patriot, born in Baku, son of Polish noble descent father, he was known for his civil courage and rational views. Year after year he was increasingly famous not only, in musical circles but also for his political attitude. His human rights advocacy was appreciated and rewarded with many awards and orders, especially in post-soviet time. Awards he received show, how unique person he was, for example Stalin Prize in 1951, Lenin Prize in 1964 and Medal of Freedom from President of USA in 1987. His position in musical culture and in 20th century social history is indisputable.
   Starting from his student times, when he quit Moscow Conservatory as a gesture of protest against dismissal of Dmitri Shostakovich form professor’s post he was supporting towards the opposition. In time of cold war he was openly opposed against political control over Soviet Union citizens especially artists and intellectuals. In August 1968 while playing in London at The Proms he made clear gestures of solidarity with Prague Spring. Developing his artistic career, he had more possibilities to fight for freedom of speech and democratic values. He was supporting many dissidents, among them Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was his long time friend. In seventies, after he was banned from official musical life in Moscow, in 1974 he left homeland and four years later he was deprived of citizenship. He remained in exile for 16 years. In 1989 when Berlin Wall was falling down, he gave improvised concert. In 1990 his citizenship was restored and his return was seen as a manifestation of new era in Russian history. He was active in social life also later years; in 1991 he was supporting Boris Yeltsin during coup d'état attempt.

Mstislav Rostropovitch • Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony 'Pathetique' (1977)

   In mid-seventies Mstislav Rostropovich recorded complete six Symphonies by Peter Tchaikovsky with London Philharmonic Orchestra for His Master’s Voice label of EMI Records Ltd. This English production with addition of the Manfred Symphony op. 58 was published in 1977 by EMI branch offices all over the world. In England it was available as complete of 7 LP records in the box, but for various markets it was also released apart. It was possible to buy standalone symphonies or the whole cycle promoted in various collections and club editions. Next year EMI released record with Tchaikovsky’s two orchestral fantasies Romeo and Juliet and Francesca da Rimini. These recordings were reissued by EMI as 5CD set in 1995. Although all of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works are eminent achievements, the whole series most featured are last symphonies, especially Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 ‘Pathétique’ which was last great work composed by Peter Tchaikovsky, premiered only nine days before his death.
   Recording session for Symphony ‘Pathétique’ took place at Kingsway Hall in London during three days September 13th to 15th, 1976. The place was known for its perfect acoustic space for orchestra sound and it was heavily used for recording sessions with London Philharmonic Orchestra (280 recordings) and London Symphony Orchestra (421 recordings). When London Philharmonic Orchestra was recorded Tchaikovsky under the baton of Rostropovich, it has 44 years of recording experience with Kingsway Hall. The orchestra in Pathétique sounds perfect as in organic unity. Rostropovich’s recordings were made during the years Bernard Haitink was on the post of principal conductor (1967-1979) so the period was propitious for plastic and massive sound of late romanticism. With this orchestra Russian artist found great partnership to create sophisticated performances of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, thus the interpretation idea is rather balanced than dramatic, closer to classical spirit, although composition by itself is dramatic and narrative-like in post-Romantic manner. This credible performance uncovering lots of inner beauty demands some friendly attention.