Recommend music that combines jazz with baroque classical.
December 10, 2005 11:08 PM   Subscribe

In Nina Simone's "Love Me or Leave Me" she plays a piano solo that incorporates a bit baroque* classical piano. Makes sense, since she was trained as a classical pianist, and the effect is wonderful. Please recommend some other songs or artists that use this kind of jazz/baroque combo. * Disclaimer: I'm not a classical music expert, so I may have the terminology wrong. I welcome your corrections.
posted by Typographica to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Here's a better clip of the track I mentioned.
posted by Typographica at 11:33 PM on December 10, 2005

Best answer: Claude Bolling's Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano has alot of Baroque-inspired crossover elements, and exquisite playing by Jean-Pierre Rampal.
posted by ldenneau at 11:35 PM on December 10, 2005

Best answer: Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band (a big band composed of LA studio musicians) has a CD called "Swingin For the Fences" that has a big band arrangement of one of Bach's 2 part inventions. All the saxes double on flute/clarinet/bass clarinet, and the guitarist plays a nylon stringed guitar on the track. It's a bit commercial and "cheesy", but still pretty fun. On Gordon's CD "XXL" there is a similar arrangement of one of the movements from Mozart's Symphony in Gm, featuring Eddie Daniels on clarinet. It's a bit more popp-ish, but still very tasteful.

This is, of course, not Baroque -- but still fun.

If you're looking for what Gunther Schuller calls "Third Stream" music, that is, classical/jazz modern stuff, check out anything by the Turtle Island String Quartet. Again, not baroque, and not really jazz, but a nice mix of the "secular" and "sacred" worlds. :)

Good luck!
posted by rossination at 11:40 PM on December 10, 2005

Response by poster: Completely forgot Claude Bolling. Thank you!

The Phat Band doesn't have the same soul I'm seeking, but the Bach rendition is fun. Thanks rossination.
posted by Typographica at 11:48 PM on December 10, 2005

Response by poster: The Turtle Island String Quartet samples sound excellent. Thanks again!
posted by Typographica at 11:51 PM on December 10, 2005

You might like some of the improvisatory work in the Turtle Island String Quartet, or the Kronos Quartet. Both - although very different - tend to mix styles in conceptually similar ways. Also, both are technically excellent.

On preview: TISQ is taken, so I'll put in the Sojourner Truth string quartet. Also, the orchestral works of Roberto Sierra fit the bill in one sense; he injects a rigorous counterpoint into a very rhythmic texture that sounds very... latin? He's an up-and-coming famous composer, as well. Good to get in on the ground floor.

Further out there, I encourage you to find Anner Bylsma playing Haydn's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in D Major - while solidly classical (obviously), Bylsma's playing has an incredible sense of rhythm and liberty that lifts the piece off of the hard floor of the 18th century. Fantastic stuff. The best performance I've ever heard, I think.
posted by metaculpa at 11:53 PM on December 10, 2005

A little along the same need to check out The Opera Band. Talk about some interesting mixes. Nice, smooth, and perfect music.
posted by Independent Scholarship at 12:01 AM on December 11, 2005

in an augmented sense... carnatic music. It has the structure and almost fugue like compositional clarity, combined with improvisation that goes way beyond jazz. It is amazing...
posted by aussicht at 1:49 AM on December 11, 2005

Best answer: Jacques Loussier?
posted by Grangousier at 4:07 AM on December 11, 2005

Seconding the Jacques Loussier suggestion: Baroque Favourites is great, with the Marcello Oboe Concerto a particular hightlight. He also makes Pachelbel's Cannon listenable once again.
posted by prettypretty at 4:19 AM on December 11, 2005

I know of a few tracks by Billy Preston. He's an organist who played for the Beatles and the Stones, as well as producing some great solo albums.

On Encouraging Words, there's a song 'Sing one for the Lord' that starts off with an organ riff lifted from Tchaikovsky. And on Club Meeting, (available as a double album with The Wildest Organ in Town) he plays a pretty good version of Summertime which suddenly takes a turn for the weird when he shouts "And here's how Papa Beethoven would have played it!".
posted by godawful at 6:06 AM on December 11, 2005

The Swingle Sisters have done loads of jazz interpretations of Bach, Mozart, etc. Their Jazz Sebastien Bach album is a classic.

Another recommendation for Jacques Loussier.

Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth released a wonderful album in 1964 on Fontana Records called Shakespeare And All That Jazz, where Cleo scats Shakespeare's sonnets over some swinging jazz tracks. I don't know whether it ever made it to CD, but I've seen it in quite a few thrift stores over the years.

Also likely only available on vinyl, The Baroque Brass - a group of 60's session musicians who did easy listening cover versions of popular hits (Daytripper, A Taste Of Honey, etc) in a baroque style.
posted by nylon at 6:59 AM on December 11, 2005

Best answer: Bach à la jazz in the Triplets of Belleville. Sorry the site doesn't provide a link to an abstract. Anyway, most of the soundtrack is really worth buying (and the movie worth seeing).
posted by vincentm at 7:08 AM on December 11, 2005

I would've sworn that the organ line in Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was cribbed wholesale from something by J.S. Bach, but a couple of musicians I've talked to say it wasn't.
posted by alumshubby at 7:13 AM on December 11, 2005

...also the keyboard solo in the Beatles' "In My Life." Not quite jazz, but maybe of interest.

The soundtrack to The Ladykillers — the recent Cohen brothers version — has some interesting combinations of renaissance music and gospel. Again, not quite jazz, but still fun.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:16 AM on December 11, 2005

Best answer: The Modern Jazz Quartet made a lot of nice baroque albums, eg. "Fontessa". Django Reinhardt, the inspiration for the Triplets of Belleville score, did a couple hard-swinging versions of Bach's double violin concerto in the 30s and 40s.

The Columbia Univ radio station WKCR runs an annual 7-10 day Bach festival during the Christmas break, which includes (or used to) a long segment on Bach and jazz hosted by jazz scholar Phil Schaap, a cultural hero of mine. It usually featured a lot of Loussier and Bolling and Swingle Singers. It got tiresome after an hour or so, imo.

During the Bach festival broadcast several years ago, Schaap made the point that this fusion really isn't all that successful or illuminating because the propulsive "swing" rhythm essential to jazz is foreign to Bach's music. At least I think that's what he said.

For my part, while some of Bach's Goldberg Variations (e.g.) provide the kind of foot-stomping, soaring complexity that I like in jazz, it don't mean the same kind of thing if it's got that swing :-)
posted by bmckenzie at 8:22 AM on December 11, 2005

alumshubby, not wholesale, but definitely strongly influenced.
posted by kenko at 12:00 PM on December 11, 2005

I would've sworn that the organ line in Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was cribbed wholesale from something by J.S. Bach, but a couple of musicians I've talked to say it wasn't.

Yeah, wikipedia thinks it was.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:41 PM on December 11, 2005

Best answer: John Lewis, pianist for the above-mentioned MJQ, has recorded a bunch of jazz-inflected Bach albums...
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:38 PM on December 11, 2005

Response by poster: Great suggestions. Thank you all.

this fusion really isn't all that successful or illuminating because the propulsive "swing" rhythm essential to jazz is foreign to Bach's music

Interesting point, though I think the passage I quoted from Simone's "Love Me or Leave Me" proves that there are definitely exceptions.
posted by Typographica at 1:38 PM on December 11, 2005

Perhaps from the other end of the telescope, but your question made me think of the French baroque ensemble L'Arpeggiata. Their CD All'Improvviso. uses simple ground bass lines to great effect as the foundation for some exhilarating improvisation with a blend of old and modern instruments.
posted by amestoy at 2:05 PM on December 11, 2005

(ludwig_van: Even Wikipedia says it's "loosely" based on two different pieces of Bach's. Trust me, I've heard the pieces in question, and it's pretty damn loose. The organ melody from Whiter Shade of Pale doesn't actually appear in any of Bach's music.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:24 PM on December 11, 2005

While the classical half of the equation isn't baroque, specifically, Deodato's "Prelude" LP contains smokin' jazz-funk versions of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun".
posted by arto at 6:58 PM on December 11, 2005

Nina Simone's "Little Boy Blue" uses a similar technique, and is just an amazing song.
posted by QIbHom at 10:01 AM on December 15, 2005

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