The David Ricard Big Band – Hey, I Know This Song!, Vol. 1 [TrackList follows] – Lesterbeat Records LR016 ****:
Sachal Studios Orchestra – Jazz And All That (In Memory of Dave Brubeck) [TrackList follows] – Sachal Music SM 026 ****:
Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s – the big swing band era – just about every big band had at least one jazzed-up classical theme they would perform and/or record, and there were some, such as John Kirby, who specialized in that sort of thing. For some decades now that has sort of gone out of fashion, at least in the big band realm, though the third stream movement tried to bring classical and jazz together in quite a different and more complex manner.
Dave Ricard, who arranged, produced and mixed this album, has tried to bring the jazzed-up classical themes back into vogue. His subtitle of this CD is “Classical Music’s Greatest Hits – Mashed Up into iconic big band sounds.” His 18-member band is all listed on the inside flap of this CD alternate package. He doesn’t use any of the former arrangements by Benny Goodman and others, but creates his own ten tracks based on various classical hits. His arrangements are excellent, the sonics are fine, and the mastering was done by Doug Sax. There are over 20 videos of the David Ricard Band at YouTube, including one especially for this album.
TrackList:1. Swan Lake Swing (based on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake) 2. So Bright, So Blue (based on Strauss’s Blue Danube) 3. Peer Pressure (based on Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite) 4. March of the Turkeys (based on Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca) 5. Let’s Get Bizet! (based on Bizet’s Habanera) 6. Dodging the Bull (based on Bizet’s Toreador March) 7. Beethoven Five-0 (based on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5) 8. El Carnaval del Cisne (based on Saint-Saens’s The Swan) 9. Pavin’ The Way (based on Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess) 10. Some Swing Borrowed, Some Swing Blue (Mendelssohn’s Wedding March)
The second CD is from India and comes from virtuoso of the once-flourishing Bollywood film industry. They played together with Wynton Marsalis at the Marciac Jazz Festival, and for this CD they do some of their unique interpretations of jazz, with excursions into the Beatles and movie soundtracks. Since their debut featured their own version of Brubeck’s famous “Take Five,” they dedicate this album to the memory of Dave Brubeck, but his “Blue Rondo A la Turk” is the only Brubeck tune out of the 13 here. The varied musicians incorporate ancient Indian instruments such as the sitar, sarod, tabla and dholak into the sounds and rhythms of the big band. A documentary film is being made on the Sachal Jazz Ensemble, directed by an Oscar-winning Indian filmmaker.
Izzat Majeed both arranged and produced the album, and the studio musicians are joined by several musicians from the UK and by a chorus. The opening track is an homage to the genus of Stevie Wonder and uses the fresh sounds of the flute, sitar, harmonica and piano. Majeed called his arrangement of “Moonlight in Vermont” “Moonlight in Lahore.” The audience cheered when the Sachal band played Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme” in London, so they include it here. When the ensemble’s “Take Five” topped the global charts, Brubeck himself sent his congratulations, so it is in the group of 13 tracks. The Sachal players bring a unique eastern interpretation to the Brazilian bossa nova of Jobim’s “Wave.” A sensuousness is stressed by flute, guitar, harmonica and piano over the string section and some Brazilianized percussion. Who would expect a tune from the Scottish Highlands (“Morning Has Broken”) to become a hymn played on sarangi, sarod and flute?
TrackList:You’ve Got It Bad Girl (Wonder) If You Go Away (Brel) Moonlight In Vermont (Suessdorf/Blackburn) Monsoon (Afzal) The Pink Panther (Mancini) Ponteio (Lobo) Eleanor Rigby (Lennon/McCartney) Blue Rondo A la Turk (Brubeck Kafi Jazz (Five Rivers) (Abbas) Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.) Wave (Jobim) To The End Of The World (Metheny/Mays) Morning Has Broken (Traditional)