Hot Tracks

The three names on the cover of this album make it a must-have for jazz fans. It pays tribute to the compositions of multi-hyphenate pianist-composer-arranger John Lewis, best known as co-founder of the influential Modern Jazz Quartet.

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the driving force behind Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, is a headliner in his own right, and pianist Jon Batiste is arguably the most high-profile young jazz musician of his generation, thanks to his gig as bandleader on Stephen Colbert's The Late Show.

The best news is, despite their stature, there is very little ego on display here (it probably helps that Marsalis and Batiste both hail from New Orleans musical nobility and are long-time family friends, and that this live recording was actually made in 2013, more than two years before the latter landed his job on The Late Show).

Lewis, a classically trained musician who died in 2001, fused a melodic classical bent with hard bop's rhythmic drive in his elegant compositions. This is evident in many of the tracks here, where the Juilliard-trained Batiste embellishes his solo lines with classical borrowings: waltz time in Animal Dance and Romantic and Baroque flourishes in Django.

  • JAZZ


    The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis featuring Jon Batiste

    Blue Engine Records

    5/5 stars

The Lincoln Center orchestra's line-up of stellar musicians also bring their own sensibilities to bear on the music. Clarinettist Victor Goines gets bluesy on the opening track 2 Degrees East, 3 Degrees West, and drummer Ali Jackson anchors the action with understated calm on Spanish Steps. Marsalis is at his relaxed, strutting best on Delaunay's Dilemma.

Joyful, masterful music-making that flies the flag of tradition high without burying it in stultifying stodginess.

Ong Sor Fern

This is a live recording of a 2013 gig held at London's Royal Festival Hall of concert arrangements by American conductor John Mauceri of film scores under the banner, "Hollywood Blockbusters 1960s to 1980s".



    London Philharmonic John Mauceri

    LPO 0086 (2 CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

There cannot be a more familiar prelude than Alfred Newman's 24-second 20th Century Fox Fanfare, which opens the concert. Alex North's score for the Elizabeth Taylor epic Cleopatra (1963) is turned into a two-movement symphony lasting some 26 minutes.

Just as atmospheric is The Godfather, A Symphonic Portrait from Nino Rota's iconic music, with the popular melody Speak Softly Love skilfully stitched within a Verdi-like backdrop of Sicilian nostalgia and shady New York underworld dealings.

What can be more recognisable than the slashing strings of Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho (1960), and the mounting tension faced by the anxious Janet Leigh in the movie's opening? Mauceri's Narrative for string orchestra on the Alfred Hitchcock movie encompasses it all.

Particularly nostalgic for trekkies will be Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek - The New Enterprise with its iconic celestial strains.

Two short "encores" close each disc - Franz Waxman's irrepressible The Ride Of The Cossacks from Taras Bulba (1962) and Maurice Jarre's heroic Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) theme.

The London Philharmonic performs with requisite passion. Movies are never the same without the music, and that is where the genius lies.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe