Saturday, July 31, 2010

Porgy and Bess - 1959 Film Soundtrack

And now for something completely different.

Picked this up today in the bargain bin at Utopia records (the big heavy metal specialist shop in Sydney, FTWDK) for $5. Spiffy Japanese pressing from the '70s by the look of the label. Was doing a little googling and was taken aback to find that both the film and its soundtrack are out of print, save for a very dodgy-looking "public domain" Euro CD.

Seems that the Gershwin estate was displeased with Otto Preminger's film, particularly the way they had allegedly Broadway-ised the music and taken it away from its highfalutin' opera origins, and the film has been withdrawn from circulation for several decades.

I have never seen the film, but had heard several jazz interpretations of the score: Miles Davis's and Gil Evans's obviously, but also those by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Joe Henderson (not to mention countless versions of Summertime, I Loves You Porgy and It Ain't Necessarily So). It was only this year that I actually dug out a triple LP box of Simon Rattle's recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, mainly due to my reading Alex Ross's excellent The Rest is Noise and realising I had never heard the "proper" version of Porgy. All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I was more familiar with a looser interpretation of the work, which is probably why this version appeals to me.

As was the way at the time, many of the big name stars had their vocals dubbed by uncredited singers. One exception being Sammy Davis Jr who for contractual reasons was replaced on the soundtrack album by Cab Calloway, who had performed the role of Sportin' Life to great acclaim a few years earlier (there's a recording of that production in print, but I have never heard it). I'm sure Sammy Davis Jr did a good job in the film, but Calloway absolutely kills on It Ain't Necessarily So here.

Actually, thanks the the miracle of Youtube, here's Sammy Davis from the fillum. He's pretty good, I must say.

The principal roles are sung on the album as follows:

Porgy: Robert McFerrin (yes, it's Bobby's dad).
Bess: Adele Addison.
Clara: Loulie Jean Norman
Maria: Pearl Bailey
Crown: Brock Peters (whom some hereabouts might recognise from his spoken lines at the end of Miles Davis's Jack Johnson)
Serena: Inez Matthews
Sportin' Life: Cab Calloway
For the minor roles, see the IMDB link above.

The score was adapted and conducted by André Previn.

CBS/Sony, Japan. Cat #25AP 809. Stereo.

A1 - Overture (5:22)
A2 - Summertime (2:39) [Clara]
A3 - A Woman is a Sometime Thing (1:58) [Jake, Mingo, Sportin' Life]
A4 - The Wake: Gone, Gone, Gone; Porgy's Prayer (3:00)
A5 - My Man's Gone Now (4:25) [Serena]
A6 - I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' (3:10) [Porgy, Maria]
A7 - Bess, You is my Woman Now (5:13) [Porgy, Bess]
B1 - Morning; Catfish Row (1:34)[Chorus]
B2 - Oh, I Can't Sit Down (2:02)[Chorus]
B3 - It Ain't Necessarily So (3:06) [Sportin' Life]
B4 - I Ain't Got No Shame (1:20) [Chorus]
B5 - What You Want with Bess? (2:08) [Bess, Crown]
B6 - Street Cries: Strawberry Woman; Crab Man (2:25) [Strawberry Woman, Crab Man]
B7 - I Loves You, Porgy (3:24)[Bess, Porgy]
B8 - A Red Headed Woman (1:09) [Crown]
B9 - Clara, Clara (2:13) [Chorus]
B10 - There's a Boat Soon That's Leavin' for New York (2:17) [Sportin' Life]
B11 - Oh, Where's My Bess? (2:33) [Porgy]
B12 - I'm On My Way (1:48) [Porgy, Chorus]

320kpbs mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12] 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Larry Coryell - Le Sacre du Printemps (1983)

UPDATED 28/2/12. See Below

Gee, it's been a while. What with the World Cup and all I've been neglecting this blog a little, other than my little run-in with Billy Jenkins's people (for which I can't apologise enough).

Anyway, here's a little-known gem from 1983. Larry Coryell's solo guitar arrangement of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (aka The Rite of Spring). I'm no guitarist, but even I boggle at the performance on this one. I think there was originally a four-handed piano reduction of the piece (for the ballet rehearsals) of which there are many issued recordings, and I think later pianists have recorded a two-handed arrangement (I thought I had a recording* of one, but it turns out it's a four-handed arrangement overdubbed by one pianist). But Coryell plays it on solo guitar. There's no overdubbing. I don't have good enough ears to detect whether there's any splicing or punching in, but even if there is, it's still a mighty impressive achievement. There are quite detailed liner notes that probably reveal the recording process, but since I don't read Japanese I couldn't really say.
In lesser hands a solo Le Sacre could turn into a wanky shred-fest, but Coryell plays it pretty straight, other than the occasional implied blues shuffle or latin rhythm, and really seems to capture a lot of the drama and rhythmic intensity of Stravinsky's work.

I picked this up on eBay for a song about five years ago. In fact, I think it's the first thing I ever bought on eBay. Curse you, eBay, and your detrimental effect on my finances!
It was recorded in New York City in 1983, and produced by none other than the esteemed Teo Macero. This one might have only ever been issued in Japan (it came out on CD too). Coryell put out an album the same year featuring his solo recordings of L'Oiseau De Feu and Petrouchka, of which I have an LP** pressed in Holland, so I'm not 100% sure that this one only came out in Japan. Either way, according to a logo on the OBI 帯, this one is pressed on Super Vinyl, so you know that's just got to be, er, super.

Philips label, Japan, 1983. Cat # 28PJ-2

A1: Part I: The Adoration of the Earth (16:25).
Introduction - Dance of the Young Maidens - Mock Abduction - Spring Rounds - Games of the Rival Tribes - Entry of the Wise Men - Kiss to the Earth - Worship Dance of the Earth.

B1: Part II: The Sacrifice (18:48).
Introduction - Mystical Circle of the Young Maidens - Glorification of the Chosen One - Evocation of the Ancestors - Sacrificial Dance

Re-rip 28/4/12.
I reckon I've done a much better job this time, so those who already have this might want to grab it again.

320kbps mp3

* Found it. It's by Dickran Atamian on RCA. Was thinking of posting it, but there are a couple of in-print recordings by the same pianist available. Look 'em up.
**My copy of L'Oiseau De Feu/Petrouchka is not in the best shape, so I won't post it unless someone asks for it.