DEFINITIVE RECORDINGS
William Russo - 3 Pieces for Blues Band & Orchestra

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WILLIAM RUSSO - 3 PIECES FOR BLUES BAND & ORCHESTRA OP. 50 - STREET MUSIC OP. 65 - CORKY SIEGEL (BLUES HARMONICA) - THE SIEGEL-SCHWALL BAND - SEIJI OZAWA (CONDUCTOR) - SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 463665

This great collaborative recording from the 1970s deserves the term of Definitive Recording simply for being what it is. A very successful coming together of different genres of music that created an impact, that is still being felt today.

William Russo was an American composer and jazz musician who lived from 1928 to 2003. He founded the London Jazz Orchestra and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and firmly believed that jazz and classical music could have a close relationship. Besides writing great jazz music, he also composed classical works. His Symphony No. 2 was actually commissioned by Leonard Bernstein.

After hearing the Siegel-Schwall Blues Band perform in a Chicago bar in 1966, Seiji Ozawa came up with the idea of combining blues and symphonic music, and these pieces by William Russo eventually came to be. Ozawa premiered the 3 Pieces in Chicago in 1968 and eventually made this recording in 1971.

Another very good reason why this music is being considered so highly, is because it became one of Deutsche Grammophon's best-selling albums of all time. Imagine, one of the world's most respected "classical" music labels, takes a chance on a recording of music involving electric guitars, drums and a blues harmonica, and it becomes a huge hit, that is still selling very well today in 2011, 40 years after its release. It goes to show that shaking things up a bit sometimes goes a long way.

If you like Blues music, Leonard Bernstein's Mass, even something a bit more remote like the Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis, you will love these pieces blending the upbeat sound of a blues band with a symphony orchestra. And if you love the sound of a well-played blues harmonica, just wait until you hear what Corky Siegel can achieve on that versatile instrument. It will make you love the blues all over again. As the shirt worn by the conductor on the cover suggests, this is music from the core of the hippie movement of the late 60s, and I will be the first one to admit that it's a breath of fresh air everytime I hear it.

Jean-Yves Duperron