Some Jazz Thoughts for the New Year: Jazz and Classical Come Together with Beautiful Results

the jazz project

At this time of the New Year I would like to share with you some of the jazz discs I shared with family and friends over the holidays. I try to think of music that is pleasing and perhaps a bit surprising or different. This year I decided to select music in which jazz and classical musicians come together with beautiful results. It is a kind of interaction that many people who like or even love jazz know little or have thought little about. The best way to explain what I am talking about is to describe a few of my favorites among these collaborative albums.

Side By Side

Izhak Perlman and Oscar Peterson

Perlman, famous as a world-class violin soloist in the classical genre, and Peterson, one of the jazz piano greats, outdo themselves on this album that has such gems as “Stormy Weather,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and “Mack the Knife.” Perlman also recorded Scott Joplin piano rags with Andre Previn.

Anything Goes

Stephane Grappelli and Yo-Yo Ma Play (Mostly) Cole Porter

What a combination! The almost legendary French jazz violinist and the American-Chinese classical cellist superstar playing together. They beautifully give us some of Porter’s best: “Anything Goes,” “I Concentrate On You,” “Just One of Those Things,” and many more.

Suite For Flute And Jazz Piano Trio No. 2

Claude Rolling and Jean-Pierre Rampal

This album was a true revolution in the classical world when it was released in 1976. It was so popular that it was ranked on billboard for 10 years and Bolling is thought of as the creator of 'crossover music'. His musical partner, Jean-Pierre Rampal, is considered the great classical flutist of the 20th century.

Blues On Bach

The Modern Jazz Quartet

Most of the jazz on this album is based on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, such as his “Well-Tempered Clavier” and his chorale “Sleepers Awake.” If you think it can’t be tastefully and pleasing done, just listen.

Three Windows

The Modern Jazz Quartet and the New York Chamber Symphony

This album contains five compositions of which “Three Windows” is the first. All compositions are by John Lewis, pianist of the NJQ. If there is a better example of a jazz group and a symphonic group playing together to get the most out of the music, I haven’t heard it.

Four Symphonic Works by Duke Ellington

There was nothing that the Duke couldn’t do with music, as you will hear on this album. The four works are “Black, Brown, and Beige Suite,” “Three Black Kings,” and “New World a-Comin’, and “Harlem.”

Wynton Marsalis: The London Concert with the English Chamber Orchestra

It is hard to believe that the great trumpet player who gave us the wonderful five-disc jazz series “Standard Time” could also give us a disc of the same quality with the trumpet concertos of Haydn, L. Mozart, Fasch, and Hummel. Marsalis did that and added three bonus tracks by Haydn, Vivaldi, and Bach!

Romances For Saxophone

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis has played the tenor sax and the baritone sax in jazz groups in the United States and Europe. But if you want to hear the soprano sax at its loveliest, listen to this album. With the English Chamber Orchestra, Marsalis brings out the soft beauty of pieces by Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Rachmanioff, and others.

I could go on and on. The great jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman both composed and played classical clarinet music. The Dave Brubeck Quartet played at New York Carnegie Hall. Saxophonist Stan Getz and trombonist J.J. Johnson played at the Chicago Civic Opera.

And here is the last line. In 1956 the Oscar Peterson Trio gave a memorable jazz performance at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival in Ontario. An enthusiastic reviewer of the performance gave the last line to the Bard himself: “a hit, a very palpable hit” (Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1).