Hot Tracks



The Count Basie Orchestra

Concord Music Group

4 stars

No, this album does not contain a cover of that Meghan Trainor song, so purists can just breathe a sigh of relief. About the most pop-friendly choices are Earth, Wind And Fire's Can't Hide Love, Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amour and Adele's Hello.

Can't Hide Love's signature brass fanfare intro actually sits very comfortably in a big-band arrangement and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon leads the section in swinging style with a sassy plunger solo.

Wonder contributes a chilled harmonica solo on his hit track. Adele's dramatic bluesy confessional gets a cool makeover into a more introspective ballad, with a restrained trumpet solo by arranger Kris Johnson.

What strikes the listener is how these numbers segue so seamlessly into the Basie big-band style, aided no doubt by the smart arrangements by the orchestra's veteran members.

The 80-year history of the band is proof positive that its classic sound can endure the test of time. Its easy assimilation of these pop nuggets shows how it has managed to retain its signature sound, yet update its repertoire for new generations.

Concept bands like Postmodern Jukebox have the Count Basie Orchestra to thank for its adventurous approach to covers.

But the storied history of the band also offers much material for this album. The standout indubitably is Kurt Elling, who takes on Frank Sinatra's legendary version of Don't Worry 'Bout Me, recorded with Basie at the Sands in Las Vegas in 1966.

Ong Sor Fern



Albert Tiu, Piano

Centaur 3661

5 stars

In his latest recording, Singapore-based Filipino pianist Albert Tiu eschews the miniatures of past albums and goes for the big picture.

This appears to be a first recording coupling the two mammoth piano sonatas of the Russian composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninov.

Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata In G Major and Rachmaninov's First Sonata In D Minor play for more than 30 minutes each and serve as preparatory works for two massive concertos - Tchaikovsky's Second and Rachmaninov's Third, also in the same keys - to come.

Their sprawling opening movements run the risk of being stodgy and protracted, but Tiu paces each very well, building up arch-like to thrilling climaxes.

The further contrasts provided in the subsequent slow movements and a mercurial Scherzo in the Tchaikovsky are brought out with idiomatic feeling and unfailing imagination.

Tiu is a born romantic at heart and the Faustian inspiration to the three movements of the Rachmaninov is unlikely to be missed.

Adding to the excellent recorded sound are interesting personal anecdotes and programme notes by the pianist himself and aptly humorous artwork.

This is a proud production of Singapore's Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music that can stand up to scrutiny with the best recordings of the classical catalogue.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Subscribe