march, 2012

For my taste, the most exciting news of the Month is the national tour by the incomparable superstar vocal group, the  Hilliard Ensemble. They perform with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, in a concert that ranges from Gregorian and Russian Orthodox chant to Arvo Part and Elgar's Serenade for Strings, at Melbourne Town Hall on 18 & 19 March--details and bookings at If you are unfamiliar with the name, the Hilliards are, not only the finest, but also one of the most pioneering ensemble performers of mediaeval and renaissance vocal music of the last twenty-five years. Not content with producing the benchmark recordings of such towering masterpieces as the Ockeghem Requiem and the Machaut motets, they have also collaborated with saxophonist Jan Garbarek to produce three unique, crossover CDs, introduced Arvo Part's St John Passion, commissioned many contemporary composers, and issued their own recordings of choice repertoire in live concert.


We have two tickets to give away for the Hilliard/Australian Chamber Orchestra concert at The Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday 18 March. For your chance to win email your contact details to with a subject heading of Hilliard/ACO before 5pm on Wednesday 7 March.


The forthcoming CD of devilish piano music from man-of-the-moment Behzod Abduraimov is creating a great deal of interest, after his impressive grand prize win at the 2009 London International Piano Competition. We at Thomas' Music have decided to offer anyone who buys his CD, together with the recent 35CD box set of the recorded solo piano legacy of Wilhelm Kempff, a free copy of the Piano Masterworks set from Decca.


This month sees the arrival of the much-anticipated DVD of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies, the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera. This month also sees the release of the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning film, the ArtistA very appealing February release that did not make it into our last newsletter was the new recording of the ever-popular Brahms German Requiem  featuring Teddy Tahu Rhodes, with soprano Nicole Carr, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Johannes Fritzsch.


As the close of the cricket season looms, remember that you can maintain your daily dose by listening to the Songs of Cricket collection, sung by the London Quartet and guests. Included are such immortal numbers as "the Rules of Cricket--a Psalm Chant", and "I made a hundred in the backyard at Mum's". A long way from the Hilliards, admittedly, but why not?

Chris Dench More about chris
Australian Cast
3mbs Cds of the week

Week one: one of the big hits at Thomas' last year was Fiona Campbell and David Walker's Baroque Duets album, and Fiona Campbell returns with a new disc on her own label called Love and Loss, featuring music by Handel, Haydn, and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725).

Week two: Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov was the grand prize winner of the 2009 London International Piano Competition, and this, his debut recital CD, promises to impress. The slightly sulphurous program includes Prokofiev's Sonata No. 6 and Suggestion Diabolique, Liszt's first Mephisto Waltz, and the Saint-Saens/Liszt Danse Macabre

Week three: after his break from operatic activity it is a pleasure to see Rolando Villazon resuming his sequence of great tenor roles, beginning with Massenet's dramatic Werther.

Week four: one of Thomas' favourite pianists, Yuja Wang, has a new release coming in March: Fantasia, which includes the solo piano transcription of Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, best-known for its appearance in a certain very famous Disney film. The CD also includes shorter pieces by Rachmaninov, Scriabin, and others. 

$29.95 AUD
$28.00 AUD
Love & Loss - Scarlatti/ Handel
Prokofiev Piano Sonata 6 - Liszt Saint-saens
Fiona Campbell
Behzod Abduraimov
$24.95 AUD
$19.95 AUD
Fantasia - Rachmaninov Dukas Scriabin Etc
Massenet Werther
Yuja Wang
These encore pieces by Scriabin, Gluck, Rachmaninov, Chopin and ... See More
CDs of the month
$28.00 AUD
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Prokofiev Piano Sonata 6 - Liszt Saint-saens
Fantasia - Rachmaninov Dukas Scriabin Etc
Massenet Werther
Behzod Abduraimov
Yuja Wang
These encore pieces by Scriabin, Gluck, Rachmaninov, Chopin and ... See More
Thomas` Recommends
$32.00 AUD
$25.00 AUD
$19.95 AUD
Farinelli The Composer
John Tallis A Composer Of His Time
Love Never Dies Dvd - Andrew Lloyd Webber
Jorg Waschinski
Stefan Cassomenos
Australian Cast
John Tallis 1911-1996 - A composer of his time

Jack Morton ... See More
$77.00 AUD
$87.00 AUD
$14.95 AUD
Shakespeare Collection 11dvd
New York A Documentary Film 5dvd
Artist- The - Ludovic Bource
English Shakespeare
Ric Burns
Henry IV; Henry V; Henry VI; Richard II; Richard III; Othello; ... See More
An elegant, lyrical and compelling portrait of the greatest and most ... See More
Composed by Ludovic Bource
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Highlights From Musical Comedy & Operetta 2cd
Our Glad The Queen Of Song 2cd
Timeless Comedy Laughter Unlimited 2cd
Gladys Moncrieff
Gladys Moncrieff OBE (13 April 1892 8 February 1976) was an ... See More
A classic selection of parodies and humour from the days of old. ... See More
$125.00 AUD
$14.95 AUD
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Solo Piano Repertoire On Dg 35cd
Verdi La Traviata
Terry Riley A Rainbow In Curved Air
Wilhelm Kempff
Joan Sutherland
Terry Riley
Wilhelm Kempff (18951991), one of the great piano masters, ... See More
Terry Riley (Composer)

Terry Riley (Performer)
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Hans Von Bulow Piano Works
Shepherd And The Mermaid
Australian Cast 2012
Mark Anderson
Elena Xanthoudakis
Anthony Warlow, Nancye Hayes, Todd McKenney, Chlo Dallimore, Julie ... See More
TRIOKROMA: Australian Soprano, Elena Xanthoudakis is joined by ... See More
Collectors Corner
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Rpc 56 Kalkbrenner Piano Concerto 2 & 3
Martin Honegger Schoeck Cello Concertos
Ravel Daphnis & Chloe Complete Ballet
Howard Shelley/ Tso
Haitink Lpo
If the name Friedrich Kalkbrenner is familiar at all, its probably ... See More
$29.95 AUD
$19.95 AUD
$29.95 AUD
Terry Riley In C Reissue Of The Classic 1968 Rec
Mozart Coronation Mass Ave Verum Corpus Etc
British Clarinet Sonatas Vol 1 Stanford Bliss
Buffalo University
Gritton & Nethsingha
Michael Collins
On this disc, the Choir of St Johns College, Cambridge performs ... See More

Although every Collectors Corner month has its highlights, I was particularly pleased with the March selection, which includes the latest Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto release featuring Kalkbrenner's 2nd and 3rd, played by the inimitable Howard Shelley, reissues of the legendary Columbia Terry Riley LPs In C and A Rainbow in Curved Air on the Esoteric label, and on Chandos the first in a series of British Clarinet Sonatas performed by Michael Collins, including Bax, Bliss, Howells, Ireland, and Stanford--good solid fare. On the BIS label, cellist Christian Poltera contributes a recital of three concertos by composers with links to Switzerland, Honegger, Frank Martin, and the underrated Othmar Schoeck; this looks to be a most attractive CD. If there were awards for 'sexiest piece of classical music', the perennial winner would be Ravel's Daphnis & Chloe: Bernard Haitink conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and John Aldis Choir in a performance of the complete ballet on the orchestra's own label. This is a historic recording from London's Festival Hall in 1979, recorded by the BBC; clearly the orchestra think it special enough to be released after all this time.

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Dvorak Symphony 7 Elgar Enigma Variations
Beethoven Symphony 7 & 8 Prometheus Overture
Franck Symphony Variations Symphoniques Bartok
Pierre Monteux
Claudio Abbado
Roge Maazel Weller
In the 1960s and 70s Claudio Abbado made several recordings for Decca ... See More
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$14.95 AUD
Tchaikovsky 1812 Capriccio Italien Swan Lake Sui
Grieg Peer Gynt Suite 1 Rossini Overtures
Liszt Piano Works 2cd
Kenneth Alwyn
Kenneth Alwyn
Pascal Roge & Kars
By 1958, Decca has been recording in stereo for four years, regularly ... See More
Kenneth Alwyn was a principal conductor of the Royal Ballet at Covent ... See More

One of the great joys of working on the Eloquence label is contact with artists and experts in various fields. That with the Flagstad Museum resulted in their full cooperation for our Flagstad series including access to rare and beautiful photographs of the soprano. Roy Goodman wrote the notes to the first complete release on Decca CD of the original Argo LP that housed “his” Allegri Miserere. Richard Bonynge wrote the note that accompanied the first complete release on CD of “Song for a City” – the concert given to raise funds for victims of the infamous Darwin cyclone. The latest in that line is Kenneth Alwyn who conducted Decca’s first official stereo LP – SXL 2001 – that of Tchaikovsky blockbusters – 1812, Capriccio italien and Marche slav, now coupled with music from Swan Lake. And there’s another CD of music by Grieg and Rossini. All of these, amazingly, and especially so in case of the Tchaikovsky, receive their first international release on CD. Kenneth Alwyn writes the notes for both – personal, fascinating and often quite hilarious.


Together with these you can enjoy the 18-year-old Pascal Rogé’s debut recital with a fast and furious Liszt Sonata, and more Liszt from pianist-turned-priest Jean-Rodolphe Kars. Claudio Abbado’s only three Beethoven recordings for Decca (with the Vienna Philharmonic) appear collectively on CD for the first time. Pierre Monteux conducts the much-requested reissue of the Dvorák Seventh (with the LSO) coupled with Elgar’s Enigma Variations – a recording still held in great esteem. And Maazel conducts a volatile and energetic Franck Symphony.

All will be released on 23 March.

Jazz & world news
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Hear And Know
So What?
I Want To Live (bonus Tracks)
Mike Nock Trio Plus
Miles Davis
Gerry Mulligan
"THERE are few, if any, on the Australian jazz scene who can equal ... See More
"Baritonist Gerry Mulligan and a group of West Coast all-stars were ... See More
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Trio Libero
Snappy Too
Snake Oil
Andy Sheppard
James Morrison
Tim Berne
James Morrison: all brass, reeds, piano, bass, guitar; Jeff Hamilton ... See More

We all love our Keith Jarretts and Brad Mehlaus, but the one pianist who never disappoints is our own Mike Nock, and any new release of his music is worth celebrating. His new release, Here and Know, is credited to a group called Mick Nock Trio Plus+, with the core trio from his last, excellent, album an Accumulation of Subtleties and the "plus" are two fine wind players, Karl  Laskowski  on tenor sax and Ken Allars on trumpet. According to John Ellman of, "Hear and Know reunites Nock’s trio from An Accumulation of Subtleties (FWM, 2010), capitalizing on the same chemistry that has been evolving since Nocke Niin first met the Waples brothers a decade earlier at the Sydney Conservatorium. Expanded to include a saxophone/trumpet frontline, Hear and Know is an even stronger set, featuring some of the pianist’s best writing, with all but one track making a first appearance here".


It is gratifying to see magnificent jazz recordings of earlier eras being made readily available, sometimes at bargain prices. One such is the 2CD set of Miles Davis' influential 50s recordings, So What, with material from both his quintet and sextet formations, retailing at a mere $14.95. Not quite such a bargain but indispensible nonetheless is the JPM reissue of the great baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's reworking of material from the soundtrack to the film I Want To Live; it will doubtless appeal to anyone who enjoyed Miles' soundtrack to l'Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud, or Sonny Rollins studio version of AlfieLikewise, it has been too long since the music of the great Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison was readily available, and we are delighted to see his music reappear on our shelves. His latest, snappy too, has Morrison playing (almost) all the instruments, and soloing on various saxophones and trumpets, trombone, piano, guitar, and bass ...I would call that several steps beyond versatile. Jeff Hamilton plays drums, apparently.


Not so well known here in Australia, UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard had a major hit with his first ECM CD Movements in Colour and he has now followed that up with a new CD, again on ECM, Trio Libero. By and large transparent and gently thoughtful, with a pleasant eeriness, this is a quietly satisfying listen. ECM have also released a new disc by another saxophonist, Tim Berne, who contributed strongly to David Torn's astonishing, highly charged and rocky, Prezens album. Atmospheric and uncosmetic, Berne's new quartet CD, Snakeoil, with bass clarinet, piano, and drums, sounds like no-one else--due not least to the absence of a bass player, giving the textures great fluidity. It has the authentic quality of chamber music. 

MSO News
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This Is Chris Botti
Chris Botti
Chris Botti - trumpet

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra presents two concerts with renowned cross-over jazz trumpeter Chris Botti at the State Theatre of the Melbourne Arts Centre on 10 March at 7pm, and 11 March at 2. Thomas' Music is very pleased to be able to offer 2 Free Tickets for the Chris Botti concert with the MSO on Saturday 10 March. For your chance to win email your contact details to with a subject heading of Chris Botti before 5pm on Wednesday 7 March.


The Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre provides the venue for an appealing concert featuring both Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony--Ralph Barshai's arrangement of the 8th string quartet--and Beethoven's exquisite Violin Concerto, with Haydn's early Symphony 6, le Matin, as appetiser; violinist Kolja Blacher is both soloist and director. The program is presented on 22 March at 8pm, and 24 March at 6:30. Blacher features also, firstly as soloist in Stravinsky's amiably neo-classical Violin Concerto, plus Dukas and Berlioz, with conductor Matthias Pintscher on March 15 & 16 at Melbourne Town Hall (both 8pm), and in a varied program with solo works by Bach and Berio, and Mendelssohn's charming Octet: March 28, 7:30pm, at the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall once again. There is a rare opportunity to hear Shostakovich's Piano Quintet, a work "of great emotional power", with two newer American pieces, at the Iwaki Auditorium in the ABC Southbank Centre on 25 March at 11am; what better way to develop an appetite?


Richard Gill is well known for his activity as an ambassador for classical music, and he is presenting three "interactive journeys into music" with the MSO in 2012, of which the first, featuring Brahms powerful Tragic Overture takes place in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at the MRC on 3 April at 6:30pm. Truly an event not to be missed.


For those who are not Melbourne residents there is an opportunity to hear the orchestra in a traditional program of Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, and the Dvorak New World Symphony: HM Theatre, Ballarat, 28 March; West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul, 29 March; Frankston Arts Centre, 30 March--all at 8pm.

Limelight Magazine
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Los Pajaros Perdidos South American Project
L Arpeggiata

In the March issue of Limelight, we go behind the scenes with oud master Joseph Tawadros as he records his Concerto of the Greater Sea with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and review the ensuing album.Online, we speak with Ludovic Bource, winner of the coveted Oscar for Best Original Score for The Artist, about the challenges and risks involved in writing music for a silent film. Plus, we explore the Top Ten One-Hit Wonders of Classical Music.

Review of the Month: Los Párajos Perdidos

Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata go troppo with their latest South American Baroque adventure.

Staff Reviews
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Schubert Piano Sonatas D840 D850 D894
Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis has just emerged from a vast Beethoven project: the ... See More


After almost fifty years of listening to them, I would contend that three of the greatest works in all Western Classical Music are included in this new recital by Paul Lewis—Schubert’s great D.894 G Major Sonata, the D.899 Impromptus, and the D.946 Drei Klavierstücke—and in close to ideal performances. This is a mighty claim, of course, and I do not expect listeners to take it at face value—fortunately the proof is easily, and cheaply available.


I was never very convinced by Lewis’ Beethoven performances; I tried repeatedly to like his readings of both the solo and concertante works, but always came away feeling frustrated and underwhelmed. Admittedly, I have a temperamental disaffinity with Beethoven’s melodramatic psychology, but even so I find performances by Stephen Kovacevich, Andras Schiff, or particularly Ronald Brautigam far more engaging. For me to feel so positive about his Schubert, the nineteenth century composer closest to my heart, is therefore a strong endorsement. Even so, there are Schubertians and Schubertians: I never felt particularly touched by Lewis’ mentor, Alfred Brendel’s Schubert, and amazing though the notorious Richter überslow performances of the great G Major and C major Reliquie Sonatas are (4758616), his is not the Schubert I recognise. I grew up with the performances of Jörg Demus on Deutsche Grammophon, and it is to those that I would compare Lewis’ unaffected, masterly performances. His use of microrubato to colour phraseology while maintaining an unfluctuating main tempo is wonderfully effective; his ability to imbue the music with solemn beauty without pathos is outstanding.


The three Schubert Sonatas that everyone knows and loves are the final three, C minor D.958, A major, D.959, B flat major D.960. Lewis has, however, chosen to perform their precursors, the energetic D major D.850, sublime G major D.894, and the unfinished C Major Reliquie, D.840—he only plays the first two movements of this work, where Richter essayed the two unfinished final movements, ending heart-breakingly in mid-flow. I rather wish Lewis had done likewise, but one cannot have everything. Both D.840 and D.850 are emulations of Beethoven’s sonata approach—in fact, it is possible that Schubert abandoned the last two movements of D.840 as the thematic material was too redolent of Beethoven’s Op2/3 Sonata to be susceptible to true Schubertian shaping—but the sound world is entirely his own. Lewis clearly has a strong feeling for the logic of these pieces, and his ability to convey the architectural meaning while not losing an iota of expressivity is remarkable.


In contrast to the formal predeterminedness of the Sonatas, Schubert’s shorter pieces simply astonish. Often made out of deceptively simple component material, the eight misnamed Impromptus (there is not the slightest thing throwaway about these pieces) and the three Klavierstücke D.946 take the listener into a largely unprecedented realm of expressive possibility, and with an un-sonata-like compression of ideas. There are innumerable versions of these works on CD, but I have heard few performances as good as these—in fact, the Drei Klavierstücke as performed by Lewis are probably my single desert island disc. Consistent with his reading of the Unfinished D.840 Sonata, Lewis declines to play the second trio of the first of the D.946 pieces—Schubert put a line through that section in the manuscript. It seems a shame to be denied the pleasure, but it is true that doing so extends the length of the work sufficiently to cause an imbalance with the final, much briefer, Klavierstuck, with its single, extraordinary, trio.

Even legendary recordings have to be new at some point, and we may well collectively remember the release of this Schubert set as a special moment in early twenty-first century musicmaking. I certainly shall.

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Rpc 55 Widor Piano Concertos
Thierry Fischer
Today, Widors compositions for organ have a prominent position in ... See More


In the last few years there has been a laudable interest in revealing the wider scope of composers otherwise known for a narrow range of output. Tournemire’s eight symphonies, for example, or Vierne’s orchestral songs on Melba. The most recent addition to Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series is a disc entirely devoted to the piano and orchestra output of one-hit wonder, Charles-Marie Widor—known to the vast majority of us solely by his famous Toccata, and even beyond that only for his organ music. It comes therefore as something of a surprise that he wrote works in such mainstream genres as song and concerto forms. Unlike that other organist-composer Louis Vierne, who was a near-contemporary of Ravel, the clue to Widor’s music comes in his dates: 1844 to 1937; old enough to have heard Liszt play, yet long-lived enough to have witnessed the remarkable explosion of musical modernity in the first quarter of the 20thcentury. As in Saint-Saëns’ work, there is little direct trace of the influence of such radicalism in Widor’s musical language, however, and while the two large-scale concertos sound more like Brahms than Franck, they exhibit a seriousness of approach that belies the light-weight reputation of late 19thcentury French music, while remaining recognisably Gallic. Even the choice of keys, F minor and C minor respectively, speaks of brooding earnestness.


The First Concerto of 1876 stands in stark contrast to the roughly contemporary Piano Concerto of Benjamin Godard; there is none of the post-Felicién David exoticism, or the Berliozian picturesqueness. Apart from a whiff or the opera in the third movement, the concerto recalls Schumann above all, not just in Widor’s very accomplished piano writing, and the harmonic sense, but even in the orchestrations. This is a subtle, fluid, expansive and highly successful concerto that flatly contradicts the perception of Widor as a composer of brief, monolithic organ works. The second work on the CD, the Fantaisie in A flat major, announces its independence of the concertos both by its langorous opening and its use of a key traditionally expressive of reverie—Liszt’s famous Liebesträum for example (although, tellingly, it is still the relative major of the First Concerto’s F minor). This particular genre, the one-movement concertante Fantasy, is a particularly French idiom, similar works exist by Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy, Koechlin, and even Ravel was contemplating a Basque Rhapsody. One would never pick the Second Concerto as a French work, with its ominously dark first movement—but then, it manages to be just a little too elegant to convince as Germanic—and the second movement is a marvellously limpid, almost Rachmaninovian Andante, with occasional hints that Widor had heard the emerging music of the Impresionists. Momentary colouristic touches of chromatic harmony in the final movement flag this as a 20thcentury work, but on the whole none of Widor’s music as presented here would have caused any discomfort to a  late 19thcentury listener.


These are truly magnificent concertos, and deserve a place in orchestral programs—it is scarcely credible that this CD offers the first recordings of the two concertos. The fleet-fingered Markus Becker makes light work of the pianistic difficulties, but one can tell just how challenging they really are; the BBC National Symphony of Wales under Thierry Fischer provide a full-blooded ripieno, and the recordings are impeccable. Until such time as these works appear in a concert hall near you, this excellent CD will have to do. Highly recommended.

$24.95 AUD
Universal Consciousness/ Lord Of Lords
Alice Coltrane

The Impulse 2-for-1 series are single-CD amalgamations of two original LPs, one a major achievement of the artist, and the other a more minor release; in Alice Coltrane’s case the eponymous Universal Consciousness of 1971, and, from a year later, Lord of Lords: if Messiaen had been a jazz musician, perhaps this is what his music would have sounded like. This is not jazz for those as like to curl up with some heart-warming Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, or Tord Gustavsen—unless you already have some Sun Ra, or Evan Parker, or for that matter, Xenakis, on your shelf you may well hate this music. I for one love it, regarding it as the authentic expression of the collision of hardcore black jazz and the European avantgarde; perhaps even more so than Miles Davis “difficult” mid-70s albums like Dark Magus and Agharta/Pangaea. Alice Coltrane plays harp in the welter of orchestral sound that constitutes the opening track, and continues mainly on electric organ in music that travels from explosive hyperactivity to a reimagining of her late husband’s Love Supreme soundworld—this music was a big influence on both John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana, in their collaborations on Love, Devotion and Surrender, and Welcome (I also suspect Alice Coltrane’s ‘look’ was an influence on the Mighty Boosh’s Santana parody, "The Priest and the Beast"). Coltrane incorporates a range of non-Western approaches into her soundworld, from tambura drones to, in the Lord of Lords material, the mesmerically repetitive string orchestral sound of popular middle-eastern music; curiously, a strange, naïve, reworking of the opening and finale of Stravinsky’s Firebird provides aural variety, and the closing track, Going Home, unfolds ecstatically from the slow movement of Dvorak’s New World. The Lord of Lords track itself, a huge modal orchestral fresco with intermittent crazed soloing is simply astounding. Vilified when it first appeared by jazz purists for its unorthodoxy (and one suspects for the classical borrowings and notated-out string orchestra), this is certainly not easy music, but it is quintessentially of its time, and for my money, magnificent.

Other artists in the Impulse 2-for-1 series include Art Blakey, Mel Brown, Alice Coltrane, Curtis Fuller, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Shirley Scott, Archie Shepp, Gabor Szabo, and the McCoy Tyner Trio.

$19.95 AUD
Love Cry/ The Last Album
Albert Ayler

The Impulse 2-for-1 series are single-CD amalgamations of two original LPs, one a major achievement of the artist, and the other a more minor release; in Albert Ayler’s case the eponymous Love Cry, recorded in 1967/8 and released posthumously in 1971, and, from 1969, the Last Album. It is hard to know how to describe Ayler’s late music to those who haven’t heard it. Very little music is quite so exposed and apparently naïve, but the effect of unfettered joy and excited engagement is compelling. Nonetheless, these albums were made within three years of his presumed suicide. In his live concerts Ayler had been fêted, not least by John Coltrane, as one of the great free improvisers; his band, which included his brother Donald Ayler, would touch briefly on a tune and then erupt into extended frenetic improvisations that were usually beyond the point of having discernible pitch content. After some years of touring with this band, Ayler, perhaps frustrated by the limitedness of his soundworld, began to incorporate R&B elements into his music (a return to his roots, in fact), in the process alienating many of his fans. These two very late LPs have little of the free improvisation, but there is a deeply ceremonial, march-like, quality to the music—it has been described aptly as ‘Pentecostal’, but it is just as much a reflection of the New Orleans marching band traditions. The Last Album is a much stranger collection than Love Cry, opening with a haunting duet with Canned Heat guitarist Henry Vestine and Ayler on bagpipes, and continuing with a lovely track, Again comes the rising of the sun, with vocals both spoken and sung by Ayler’s partner, Mary Maria Parks. The remainder of the album has Ayler variously abandoning his notorious plastic reed and producing a genuinely beautiful sound not unlike that of Pharoah Sanders, playing more raucous R'n'B, and  more—who knows what he might have achieved had he lived longer?


Despite the rather arbitrary cult status that his music enjoys, it is unquestionably original and rewarding, unexpectedly thoughtful beneath the busy surface, and has a remarkable ability to tap into what critics have referred to as the ‘primal’—the infamous remark by John Litweiler that “never before or since has there been such naked aggression in jazz” being both unfair and misleading. Like all truly great music, Ayler’s work, for all its faults, aims to benefit and enrich the listener.


Other artists in the Impulse 2-for-1 series include Art Blakey, Mel Brown, Alice Coltrane, Curtis Fuller, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Shirley Scott, Archie Shepp, Gabor Szabo, and the McCoy Tyner Trio.