[Dixielandjazz] There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 9 08:21:53 PDT 2004

What is it we say about "The Saints" or "Bill Bailey"?  How about this
album? Yes, OKOM, note the reference to Benny Goodman"s and  Nat
Shilkret's versions in the next to last paragraph. :-) VBG.

July 4, 2004 - NY Times


One Album, 10 `Boleros' (but No Bo Derek)


   In the more innocent days of my college years, I was appalled to hear
of a cruel and unusual hazing that a fraternity had inflicted on its
pledges. They were confined to a cabin for a weekend and made to listen
to Ravel's "Bolero" over and over, endlessly.

Imagine that sinuous and haunting melody, which keeps turning back on
itself, burrowing ever deeper into your psyche. And to help you imagine,
RCA Victor has just released "Ravel's Greatest Hit: The Ultimate
`Bolero,' " a reissue CD with no fewer than 10 versions of the piece,
one after another.

Here, at least, there is some variety. Only three tracks offer Ravel's
orchestration, and only two of those are performed complete. (Charles
Munch conducts the Boston Symphony; Eduardo Mata, the Dallas Symphony;
and in an abridgment, Arthur Fiedler, the Boston Pops).

Since that brilliant orchestration, with its constantly shifting colors,
is the very essence of the piece, the severe abridgments seem well
advised in arrangements for piano by Morton Gould and for two pianos by
Jacques Fray and Mario Braggiotti. And although Isao Tomita commands a
suitable array of sonorities on his synthesizer, he takes cuts too — yet
still outstays his welcome with pointless noodling after Ravel's
crunching conclusion.

The Canadian Brass and the percussionist Evelyn Glennie are also
featured. But the two kickiest versions are by Benny Goodman and his
orchestra — in his jazz, not classical, mode — and Nat Shilkret and his
band, in a fox-trot reimagination.

At a time when the established labels wearily fall back on cheap and
easy reissues, it is nice to find an occasional sign of life. The people
at RCA, which released "Pachelbel's Greatest Hit" in 1991, have retained
at least a mild sense of humor.   

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