Feb 26, 2012
Stephen Sondheim is among our greatest living composers, have spent more than sixty years collaborating with legends (Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein, Jule Styne) and then becoming one himself, with ground breaking musical theatre pieces like “A Little Night Music”, “Follies”, “Company”, “Pacific Overtures” and “Sweeney Todd”. His songs have regularly been recorded by singers of from many genres, but until recently, there has been something of a dearth of instrumental jazz or classical reworking of his material. Contemporary classical composer/pianist Anthony de Mare is in the process of correcting this right now.
LIAISONS: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano is an intrepid program featuring 36 short solo piano pieces based on Sondheim’s music. Commissioned purely for this landmark project, the world’s foremost contemporary composers of varying genres and generations have come together to pay homage this modern master. Chosen by de Mare in consultation with Sondheim, the roster spans both established and emerging composers from the realms of classical, jazz, film, pop, musical theater, opera and avant-garde music. Each composer put their own spin on recognizable classics including “Send in the Clowns”, “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, and “Being Alive”, to name a few. The pieces range from direct transcriptions of original tunes (such as Ricky Ian Gordon’s re-working of “Every Day A Little Death” from A Little Night Music) to clever de-constructions (such as Frederic Rzewski’s “I’m Still Here”) to full-fledged paraphrases (such as David Rakowski’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” and Ricardo Lorenz’ Latin fusion of “The Worst Pies in London” and “A Little Priest”.)
Of particular interest to jazz fans is de Mare’s collaborations with Fred Hersch, who re-examined “No One Is Alone“ from Into the Woods, and the Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson, who was the first to request Sondheim’s most recognizable tune, “Send in the Clowns.“
I spoke with de Mare about the dearth of jazz versions of Sondheim’s music, and why he took on an epic project like this one. Click here to listen to Podcast 260, which features limited music, as the recordings will not be available until the Fall of 2012. But we managed to sneak out a little something special for you:
Anthony de Mare – “No One Is Alone” recorded live in Banff, Alberta. A previously unheard recording of one of de Mare’s concerts features him playing Fred Hersch’s arrangement of a plaintive ballad.
John Zorn – “Carny” from Criminal/S&M. Written in a joint commission for de Mare and Stephen Drury, this classical/jazz piece shows a successful marriage of both genres. The pianist is Tomoko Mukaiyam, with Annette Bergman on viola, Ermo Hartsuiker on bass clarinet, Arnold Marimossem on percussion, and Jan-Erik Van Regteren Altena on violin and cello.
Karrin Allyson – “Send in the Clowns” from ‘Round Midnight. It’s hard to do a podcast about Sondheim and not include this one.