|Voltumna [Slam Remix]||Luca Agnelli|
|Voltumna [Truncate Remix]||Luca Agnelli|
An award-winning force on the pop scene during the '80s, Nicolette Larson returns to music with this album dedicated to her young daughter, Elsie May. The album features original music by Nicolette and songs by Neil Young and Graham Nash, as well as traditionals. When recording this album, Larson was careful not to include sounds that might be too harsh for newborn ears and yet would be pleasant and interesting for toddlers and young children. Sleep, Baby, Sleep is quiet songs for quiet times.
This volume of Mingus material brings together three sessions from 1952 and 1953, all of which emphasize vocal material. The first set of arrangements leans towards a cooler side of Mingus, with careful brushwork from Al Levitt, airy alto lines from Lee Konitz, and the inclusion of a cellist. Max Roach handles the drums on the second session.
While there is no record of how the musicians felt about working with lyrics like "If you make believe with all the fine chicks/Then you're sure to get some crazy way-out kicks," presumably everyone was more enthused about "Paris in Blue," which features a relaxed and spare Jackie Paris vocal in a more distinctly Mingus-like setting. The third session runs straight down the middle, 1950s-style, neither overly cool nor anywhere near avant. Honey Gordon holds forth in a husky, Sarah Vaughan-influenced alto. She is joined by the rest of her singing family on "You and Me" and "Bebopper," a de rigeur vocal tribute to jazz hipster style.
British composer Patrick Hawes (born in 1958) seems to inhabit an aesthetic niche similar to that of John Rutter; his range encompasses both "serious" choral composition and a more pop-influenced style -- a kind of "classical lite" that seems targeted at crossover audiences -- and this album includes examples of both. At one end of the spectrum, Song of Songs, six settings from the Song of Solomon, bring Karl Jenkins to mind, facile and sentimental, but relentlessly pretty, geared to appeal to fans of pop music that has a mildly classical flavor. They are scored for chorus and soprano soloist, with occasional other soloists, accompanied by strings. The choral parts are straightforward enough to put them within the range of many church choirs, an audience for whom they seem intended, but the solo part is so outrageously high that it is unlikely it could be managed by an amateur performer. Even Elin Manahan Thomas, who has a light, pleasing voice, is sometimes reduced to squeaking, trying to negotiate Hawes' unrealistic demands. On the other hand, When Israel Was a Child and O Lord Our Governor, for chorus and organ, and the lovely a cappella Vauday Part Songs, are substantial works, disciplined and richly imagined. Overall, the performances of Manahan, the other soloists, Hawes' own choral ensemble Conventus, organist Roger Sayer, and the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the composer, make as strong as possible a case for the music. The sound is present and clean.