A really amazing crossover album and one of the very best Rhapsody in Blues.
“New York Rhapsody” – Lang Lang, p. & many others [TrackList follows] – Sony Classical 889853329229, 70:00 (9/16/16) *****:
I almost decided to put this CD in our Popular category, but it certainly is a very intense crossover effort in spite of Lang Lang saying that it is not.
At the center of it all is perhaps the very best version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on record, and I am very partial to one with David Golub, conducted by, of all people, Mitch Miller, on Arabesque (1992). That one is great stereo sound and performance but this one is even better. Part of it is the showiness of Lang Lang, which is bound to come out in this album dedicated to America’s most symbolic city as great artists have imagined it. Part of it is also that this is a two-piano version of the Gershwin classic, with jazz legend Herbie Hancock at his Fazioli and Lang Lang at his Steinway, plus the London Symphony!
The rest of this CD consists of nine short tracks featuring vocals by Jason Isbell, Andra Day, Kandace Springs, Lisa Fischer, Jeffrey Wright, Lindsey Stirling, Sean Jones and Madeleine Peyroux. Peyroux does Mancini’s Moon River in a way that makes it a wonderful tune and not the corny bit that I had it pegged as. In the sixth track of the CD, Billy Childs and the album’s producer, Larry Klein, have mixed Bernstein’s Somewhere from West Side Story, and Lou Reed’s Dirty Blvd. There’s also a Billy Childs’ arrangement of Tonight from West Side Story, and – would you believe it – the theme from Spider-Man by Danny Elfman. The CD opens and closes with melodies of Aaron Copland, who lived in and loved New York City, arranged in a very lovely fashion by Vince Mendosa. This whole re-imagining of the moods and experiences offered by New York City in these collaborations are quite stunning. The lyrics for all the songs are printed in the note booklet. (Lang Lang has lived there quite a long time and obviously loves it, and Klein is a Grammy-winning producer.)
1. Story of Our Town (From “Our Town”)
2. New York Morning
3. Empire State Of Mind
4. Rhapsody in Blue
5. New York Minute
6. Somewhere (Dirty Blvd.) – Lisa Fischer
7. Main Theme (From “Spider-Man”) – Lindsey Stirling
8. Tonight (From “West Side Story”) – Sean Jones
9. Moon River (From “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) – Madeleine Peyroux
10. In Evening Air