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'HIP' Gershwin

available at Amazon
Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue, orch. F. Grofé (inter alia), L. Mayorga, Harmonie Ensemble/New York, S. Richman

(released on May 11, 2010)
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907492 | 54'46"
The one reservation we had about Marin Alsop's recent recording of Grofé's arrangements of Gershwin, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, was that it might be better to hear a more jazz-oriented ensemble play those pieces, a group closer to Paul Whiteman's band, for whom they were created. This new Harmonia Mundi release, which came out shortly after that one, answers that question with the performances of Steven Richman's Harmonie Ensemble/New York. The Rhapsody in Blue recorded here features pianist Lincoln Mayorga, one-time staff pianist for the Walt Disney Co. and composer of the score to Fame, and it is not as daring or polished as Thibaudet's. The wind sound is also a little raucous in terms of tone and intonation, with the veteran clarinetist Al Gallodoro (in his 90s at the time of the recording sessions, which occurred not long before he died) on the iconic solo that opens the work. The Rhapsody in Blue is not paired here with the Concerto in F, which is such a signature piece for Thibaudet, but the selection of arrangements of Gershwin songs is also welcome. A slightly boring Yankee Doodle Blues can be compared with a restored version of a 1909 Edison Fireside phonograph recording. All in all, this feels more "authentic" than the Thibaudet/Alsop recording, but still not a necessity.

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