Just Above Sunset Archives

December 21, 2003: This Week's Music Notes

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

Brief Notes:


Errol Garner: Enjoys Rodgers and Porter (Ocium)


I had a chat with Garner once, back in the late sixties, while we were both waiting for our flights out of Milwaukee.  A nice fellow.  We chatted about our mutual hometown, Pittsburgh.


This particular album is cobbled up from recordings of Richard Rogers and Cole Porter standards from 1944 to 1953 - "Lover" and "This Can't Be Love" and such things.  The sound quality is not very good, but he's really powerful here.


The British critic John Fordham sums up Garner this way:


Garner was a delightfully flamboyant and vivacious pianist, whose ignorance of formal piano technique or musical theory seemed to intensify the blasé exuberance with which he approached the instrument - and astounded schooled players, who couldn't figure out how such fountains of spontaneously-generated harmony, freedom in any key, and effortlessly intricate independence of the hands was possible from someone who'd picked it all up by chance.


I too am a self-taught pianist, but my playing is far from "blasé exuberance."  Tortured timidity is more like it.  Listening to Garner makes me happy.  A nice album.

Allan Kozinn in the New York Times review of the best classic CD recordings of the year lists this:


Philip Glass, pianist (Orange Mountain Music) Mr. Glass, never a virtuoso pianist, wrote these pieces in the 1990's to extend his keyboard technique, and they overhauled his harmonic world as well. The Glassian trademarks are all here: notably, arpeggiated, repeating chordal figures and slow transformations. But this set moves into surprisingly varied, dramatic and even dissonant harmonic ground.


Well, "arpeggiated, repeating chordal figures and slow transformations" can be wonderfully hypnotic, or stunningly boring, or really quite irritating.  This depends on your mood, and the quality and amount of scotch available.  I have a friend who every time I mention Philip Glass intones, "Glass is good, Glass is good, Glass is good, Glass is good, Glass is good, Glass is good..."  I play Philip Glass stuff when it rains and I'm feeling disconnected.  Is it appropriate otherwise?


Anne Midgette lists this: 

Steve Reich Ensemble, Synergy Vocals, conducted by Bradley Lubman (Nonesuch; CD and DVD) For those who think art has to be about something, "Three Tales" offers satisfaction on many levels, using words as both sound and meaning, political statements backed up by Mr. Reich's driving rhythms. It stands just fine as an aural experience, but Nonesuch's package includes a DVD, so the work can be seen as conceived: with Beryl Korot's visuals, a video opera.

I have a copy of Reich's "Closely Watched Trains."  It's the aural equivalent of staring at the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks - of the folks in the diner at night, that "clean, well-lighted place."  I may have to find this album.