Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Recent hits.


Duke Ellington’s reading of Gershwin’s “Summertime” from his 1961 trio album Piano in the Foreground with regular bassist & drummer Aaron Bell & Sam Woodyard. As wild as anything on his much more celebrated trio summit with Charles Mingus and Max Roach from a year later, Money Jungle. Beyond-Thelonious dissonances with nonpareil polyrhythmic rubato from the rhythm section. And still Gershwin’s gorgeous lullaby melody (which he partly borrowed from “St. Louis Blues”) shines through. Almost scary in its grim power and acidic beauty.


A superbly hushed, awed, tinged-with-melancholy reading by the Four Freshmen of a song by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, It Could Happen to You. The song’s “It” has no antecedent, calling to mind Freud’s “It” and Lauryn Hill’s “That Thing,” only “It,” here is looooove, including sex. “All I did was wonder how your arms would be / And it happened to me.” Sung with their trademark melancholy-luscious close harmonies.


“Amante io vo se dire” by Benedetto Ferrari, the opening track on Anne Sofie von Otter’s superlative collection of baroque melodies, Music for a While. She sings it zestily with a pop singer’s sense of portamento, and her band digs into the rhythm with gusto.

* * *

I have long wondered why classical singers seem to such a restricted sense of timbre compared to pop singers. Recently it occurred to me that classical singers need to project to the back of large theaters without amplification, and this necessity might limit their possibilities with timbre. Pop singers for 80 years have tailored their art to the microphone. Classical hasn’t caught up.

I’m not saying that every classical singer should sing like a pop singer, but there’s no reason for some of them not to try. If Lotte Lenya had sung Schubert Lieder, wouldn’t a lot of them have sounded like Kurt Weill songs? “Meine Ruh’ ist hin, mein Herz ist schwer.” My rest is gone, my heart is heavy.

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