Month: November 2021

  • A Dash of Holiday Music

    If you are a Christmas music junkie, but tired of hearing the same old arrangements, then this follow-up to Navona's 2016 Dashing
    is for you.  Vol. 2-More Sounds from the Season (Navona 6374) is a digital download release featuring new arrangements of familiar carols as well as new pieces for the season by a host of composers.

    There are two fun new orchestral miniatures like the opening Christmas Wayfarer by Sarah Wallin Huff and a Sleigh Ride by David Solomons.  Some new versions of familiar carols (Good King Wenceslas--one for solo piano, and later one for solo cello; Silent Night; God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman; and Lo How A Rose.  The latter features cellist Elizabeth J. Start who also is heard in a little medley (Three Ships and Three Kings) and in a brief performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  The second part of the album features guitar versions of Carol of the Bells and Greensleeves performed by Alan Rinehart.  He also explores some global music with a French tune by Michel Corrette and a villancico by Augustin Barrios.  There is some Vince Guaraldi in the mix and things come to a close with an arrangement for organ and brass from Bach's Christmas Oratorio.  

    A good mix of classical pieces and familiar carols in interesting new dress and arrangements will make this a collection worth adding to your Spotify Holiday playlist.

  • Brassy Canadians

    Admittedly, it has been a long time since this reviewer has picked up an album from the impeccable Canadian Brass.  Throughout the fourth quarter of the 20th Century their releases continued to transcend genres blending classical music with excellent arrangements that transformed popular music.  Their holiday releases are still among favorite recordings.  There have been changes over the years to the group, but the professionalism and dedication to playing all types of music has been a consistent thread in their programs and appearances.

    The latest Canadian Brass album, Canadiana (Linus/Canadian Brass 270596) is an interesting concept album in line with many of their past pops releases.  Trumpeter Brian Ridenour has arranged ahost of popular songs by Canadian performers.  The traditional brass quintet is augmented by any number of additional performers.  Sometimes these create some rather striking moments.  K.D. Lang's "Constant Craving" has an extra accordion featuring Cordeone for flavor.  Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now" is a gorgeous jazzy meditation featuring guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.  Extra percussion, guitars, and even a beat-maker all add their own flair to the textures here that provide a sense of extra transcendence in this album of popular songs by the likes of Deadmau5, Drake, Rush, Daniel Cesar & H.E.R., Laura Fabian; Shawn Mendes and three songs that also feature Bruce Cockburn.  The album raps up with a touching performance of Leonard Cohen's popular "Hallelujah" which features a sort of reunion of past members of the brass quintet.  It is all quite an engaging collection of music that works very well and is well sequenced through the various styles of music represented.  Even the most casual pop music listener should recognize these popular songs in their new dress here.

    A note on the album states that the recording was made in home studios which suggests that everything was individually recorded and assembled in the sort of COVID work arounds everyone was trying to accomplish to still make music.  If that is the case, the sound and performances here are even more amazing in that context.  All the arrangements are also available from the the Canadian Brass' online store as well.  Somehow the music here feels like quite the gift for music lovers needing some outside-the-box crossover music for their playlists.  Easily recommendable for Canadian Brass fans and those who enjoy pops compilations.  There is a timeless quality to the performances here that should make this an album to return to often.