Hot Tracks

Boston-born Michael Kanan may not ring a bell as a headliner, but Kanan's name pops up most often in his 15-year association with singer Jane Monheit, with whom he records and tours as arranger and band member.

In this intimate live recording in New York's Mezzrow jazz club, with the careful applause of an attentive audience seasoning the session, Kanan's elegant post-bop style shines. With the accompaniment of guitarist Gregg Ruggiero and bassist Neal Miner, both of whom are totally simpatico with the old-school lucidity of Kanan's slightly cerebral approach to the great American songbook, Live At Mezzrow offers 69 minutes of understated eloquence and simple aural joy.

Kanan, whose first piano instructor Harvey Diamond was a student of Lennie Tristano, has inherited some of the latter's penchant for chordal patterns. But he is fonder of cleanly articulated single-note melody lines that give familiar standards such as You Do Something To Me and The Nearness Of You a winning freshness. And it is a pleasure to listen to him thinking his way through improvisation, as when a quotation from Fascinatin' Rhythm pops up, entirely aptly, in Blue Skies.

Miner and Ruggiero match Kanan note for melodic note. The trio shine especially on the longest track, Popcorn, where Ruggiero's guitar harmonises beautifully with Kanan before taking off in bright counterpoint as Miner keeps a heartbeat pulse as an anchor for both. One to put on repeat mode for lazy weekends.

Ong Sor Fern

  • JAZZ


    Michael Kanan, Neal Miner & Greg Ruggiero

    Smalls Live

    4/5 stars

Hamburg's iconic new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie, opened its doors in January after a seven-year delay and costing €500 million over the initial budget. The first recording made in the hall by its resident orchestra, the NDR Elbphilharmonie, features the Third and Fourth Symphonies of Johannes Brahms, Hamburg's most famous native composer.



    NDR Elbphilharmonie/ Thomas Hengelbrock

    Sony Classical 88985405082

    4.5/5 stars


    Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis & Jeremy Denk

    Academy of St Martin In The Fields

    Sony Classical 88985321792

    5/5 stars

The Fourth is heard first and includes a four-bar introduction before the actual first movement begins. This was Brahms' original idea before eventually dropping it, so the listener gets to hear a "new beginning" thus symbolic of this new recording at a new venue. The recorded sound for both symphonies is excellent.

The new recording of Brahms' Double Concerto In A Minor from violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis also stands out for its warmth and closeness of communication between the two soloists and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

The fillers are also very apt. First is the slow movement from Schumann's late Violin Concerto In D Minor, essentially a violin and cello duo, with Benjamin Britten's edition of its closing.

Next is the original 1854 version of Brahms' Piano Trio No. 1 In B Major Op.8, which is longer and substantially different from the more familiar revised version heard in concert halls today.

The duo, joined by American pianist Jeremy Denk, makes the strongest possible case for this rarity.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe