If variety is the spice of life, A DIFFERENT TAKE adds a bowlful of zest to the idea of standard repertoire. On their debut album, the Gruca White Ensemble’s creative programming and energetic performance lead listeners on a journey through intermingled genres and out-of-the-box renditions of well-known tunes.
Big Round Records presents the first of three albums by “Mr. Music of Memphis,” Berl Olswanger, featuring tunes by Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, and more. From pop standards and jazz ditties to good old-fashioned polka, pianist Berl Olswanger wrested command of just about every style.
APERÇU from composer and banjo innovator Michael Nix challenges listeners to reimagine the banjo as an instrument. The music, part of Nix’s New Classic Banjo Project, is brought to life by Nix’s 7-string Banjar, incorporating a wide range of folk and classical styles to forge an entirely new genre: New Classical Banjo. The album's title, which translates to “A survey or sketch; or an immediate impression, especially an insight” delivers just that. Koromanti, the opening piece on the album, is based on the very first notated banjo music, a transcription of music performed at a gathering of enslaved people in Jamaica in 1688. Banjar Lam Plearn, meanwhile, pays homage to the Mor Lam style traditionally performed in the Issan region of Thailand. These, and many other Aperçu shine through this remarkable collection of music.
THE OXTET DOES HINDEMITH from Josh Oxford is a bold reimagining of classical music in a jazz fusion context. In this album, Oxford revisits some of Paul Hindemith’s greatest works. Hindemith, a late Romantic German composer, lived during the first half of the 20th century and was among the most significant composers of his time. The album contains sonatas for trumpet, tuba, trombone, and more, in which tonically complex horn lines weave above a jazz band. Recorded at Pyramid Sound in Ithaca and at Ithaca College, the timbres of the various horns along with marimba, Fender Rhodes, drums, electric guitar and bass, and more, are rendered in high fidelity. THE OXTET DOES HINDEMITH features the music of this legendary composer as you’ve never heard it before.
Adam Guettel’s theater cult-classic MYTHS AND HYMNS is no stranger to genre-bending and reimagination, the original song cycle itself leaning heavily on the concepts. So it comes as no surprise that renowned guitarist Garrett Gleason, never shying away from the new or imaginative, would produce his own reworkings of the beloved songs for guitar, bass, and drums.
There’s no shortage of fresh takes in these often experimental arrangements sifting between the lines of rock and theater. Gleason’s re-workings add a vivacious flair to works like Pegasus and Sisyphus, the various guitar effects an inventive means of exciting the original content without failing to honor it entirely. Even the subdued slow-rock of How Can I Lose You finds itself ever so gradually slipping into admirable madness sure to please even the most experimental of music listeners.
Gleason’s new take on MYTHS AND HYMNS is a welcome revival and renewal. Not only is it sure to meet approval by fans of the original, but it’s been approved by Guettel himself, the two eventually coming together in person to completely reimagine the closing song, Saturn Returns (Reprise). Gleason hopes for his arrangements of MYTHS AND HYMNS to bring the worlds of theater and rock together, that perhaps, like myths and hymns, there is more in common between the two than one would think.