A Clutch of Classical Recordings

A Baker’s Dozen:

Corrections or additions?

These stories were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

December 16, 1998. All rights reserved.

CDs New Jersey Fresh

Listen globally — and buy locally," is the

truism of the season for area music lovers. Although one may be

tempted

to click one’s way to gift-giving glory via a visit to the new music

annex at www.amazon.com, the gift of music that has been

germinated,

nurtured, and matured to full bloom in the Garden State is a gift

that says you’re in touch with your roots. It supports your neighbors.

And at best, you may introduce friends and family to sounds that they

may want to enjoy "live and in person," just a short jaunt

away.

Central New Jersey’s wealth of musical activities spills over into

its wide choice of recordings by artists based in the area. Thanks

to CD technology, album recordings are no longer the sole domain of

the major record conglomerates (although their sound quality —

and six figure recording budgets — may be hard to beat). But for

many a moonlighting musician, releasing a home-grown CD recording

has become yet another extra job. Lisa Bouchelle, lead singer of

October

Baby, recently called us to talk about her group’s oven-fresh CD,

"Tales from the Pumpkin Patch."

October Baby’s first CD is the product of 10 months’ studio work with

producer Ernie White of Le Blanc Studios in Hamilton, and Suha Gur,

a Lawrence native who is chief engineer at PolyGram studios in Edison.

The group invested $6,000 in recording costs, CD pressing, and cover

art for their first 1,000 copies. Their capital came from duo

appearances

by Bouchelle and bassist LarEu in area coffee houses and bars. Also

featured on the recording are guitarist Rob Paterson and drummer John

Lewandowski.

"We hope to break even on the first pressing, and come up with

enough profit [just over $2,000] for a second pressing," says

Bouchelle. The group chose World Media Group in Indianapolis for

manufacturing,

hoping to experience smooth sailing, but it was not to be. After

taking

delivery of the first 1,000 copies, small flaws were found in the

pressing that then had to be returned — twice. At press time,

Bouchelle and LarEu were at home unshrinkwrapping 500 jewel-box cases

to replace the contents with the newly pressed CD in a race against

time before their December 12 release party.

Aside from using several hundred CDs for promotional and selling at

concerts, October Baby plans to market its CD on the Web through

www.cdnow.com

and other independent-friendly Web vendors. Bouchelle calls all the

unexpected hands-on work in getting their product to market,

"definitely

a learning experience. The only way to learn about a business is to

learn the job yourself — I guess it builds character."

The wealth of CDs featuring area groups is a clear tribute to the

rich musical life of Princeton, New Brunswick, Trenton, and central

New Jersey as a whole, and can also offer inspired ideas for holiday

giving. U.S. 1 asked music correspondents Elaine Strauss and Richard

Skelly to share their recommendations for a choice of Jersey-made

music.

Top Of Page
A Clutch of Classical Recordings

by Elaine Strauss

An unscientific survey of classical CDs issued by area

artists brought us a harvest of seven new issues for 1998: Four

recordings

of piano music, one of music for organ, one instrumental selection,

and one choral selection.

When pianist Robert Taub called us to confirm that his latest

CD of Beethoven sonatas had arrived safely, he asked when our story

was scheduled for publication. Upon learning that it would be

Wednesday,

December 16, he mystifyingly said, "Good. That’s particularly

appropriate." Pressed to explain, he noted that December 16 is

Beethoven’s birthday. When I suggested that I might use the

information

about Beethoven’s birthday, but without attribution, this quick, and

unassuming pianist replied, "It’s okay. It’s in the public

domain."

With Taub having distinguished himself by his attentiveness to the

calendar, we’ll start with his two-CD Beethoven for Vox, Volume 5

in his Beethoven series, concluding his account of the complete

Beethoven

sonatas. The recording was an outgrowth of his tenure as the first

artist-in-residence at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study from

1994 to 1997. The entire Beethoven cycle was recorded at the

institute’s

Wolfensohn Hall. Each of the CDs in Volume 5 covers Beethoven’s

compositional

life by including early, middle, and late sonatas. Taub’s liner notes

include an introductory essay surveying Beethoven’s creative

accomplishments

in the sonatas. In addition, he has written scholarly analytical

accounts,

including musical examples, for each of the individual sonatas.

To my taste, Taub is at his best in Volume 5 in Beethoven’s last two

sonatas, Op. 110 and Op. 111, untangling the musical challenges and

making these relatively impenetrable pieces coherent. Particularly

memorable is the poignant calm he brings to the concluding fugal

movement

of Op. 110. It is a vivid contrast to Taub’s nervous, restless

Beethoven

in Op. 22, and his often harried Beethoven in Op. 81A. In the

relatively

sunny Op. 28 (Pastorale) Taub gives a leisurely account of the changes

of Beethoven’s mood, taking large, but tasteful liberties in time

and volume of sound.

Ivo Kaltchev, a native of Bulgaria who teaches at

Westminster

Choir College Conservatory, studied at Yale with Boris Berman and

at Rutgers with Ilana Vered. Kaltchev devotes an entire CD to the

piano works of American impressionist Charles Griffes. Recorded in

Bulgaria for GEGA, it is available at Tower Records. Kaltchev wrote

the program notes, which provide biographical as well as musical

insights.

For the CD he selected nine from among Griffes’ 67 piano compositions,

aiming to convey the variety of Griffes’ musical output. The nine

pieces range from the delicate evocation of "Clouds" to music

on a symphonic scale. The recording includes "The White

Peacock,"

"The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan," and a world premiere

recording

of Griffes’ 1912 miniature, "A Winter Landscape." Kaltchev

does a certain amount of missionary work in this CD, bringing a

relatively

unperformed composer into the light.

Kaltchev has an intrinsically pleasing sound at the piano. He uses

his formidable virtuosity to serve musical purposes. Trained

originally

in the Russian school of pianism, Kaltchev learned to feel the weight

of the fingers pressing to the bottom of the key. To this Russian

approach he added a French approach that insists on sensing the keys

pushing the fingers up. The combination enables him to play with both

large sonorities and lightness, solidity and fleetness. He evokes

colors and washes of sound, while presenting enough musical muscle

to give roots to the music. In addition, his playing conveys a sense

of space; the midsection of the Griffes Sonata evokes, in one place,

a processional seen from afar, and, in another, small bells heard

at a distance.

In "Winter Landscape," the composition premiered on the CD,

Kaltchev’s ability to evoke non-musical events is at its most vivid.

His somber, gray chords at the opening evoke a chill. His unmodulated

single notes communicate icicles. It is possible to hear the wind

as it shakes the trees, and to sense the quietness of snow covering

the ground.

Ana Cervantes, a Roosevelt resident, has self-produced

her first CD, "Amor de la Danza" ("Love of the

Dance"),

recorded at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton.

Primarily music based on dance, the CD begins with a Pavane by the

16th-century composer William Byrd, and moves on to a Bach Partita,

which consists primarily of baroque dance patterns. Briefly, the CD

slips into a serenade, a setting of the e. e. cummings poem "I

carry your heart with me" by Pennington composer Olga Gorelli.

Gorelli has come up with a musical interpretation of the love poem

that is almost twice as long as the poetry, and evokes the mood well.

The bulkiest item on the recording consists of 12 Cuban dances by

Joaquin Nin-Culmell. In making the CD Cervantes worked with

Nin-Culmell

and found it edifying. "Working with living composers helps you

know how to play dead composers," she observes.

In the best-known piece on the recording, the Bach Partita, Cervantes

reveals that she can hold her own against any interpreter of the

baroque

composer on the piano. Her Bach combines clarity of line with a

roundness

of phrasing. Her sense of timing lends excitement to the music. "I

see a lot of lyricism and passion in Bach," Cervantes says.

"If

people think he’s mathematical, that’s all they’ll find." The

Cuban dances, all of them having a tango-like rhythm set a distinctly

Spanish mood, incorporating the subtle but vivid elasticity of timing

that gives authentic Spanish music its tension. The total effect of

the CD is that of having spent time privately with a knowledgeable

musician who decides to share with the listener some of her favorite

pieces.

Pianists Ena Bronstein Barton and Phyllis Alpert

Lehrer

combine forces in a varied program of two-piano pieces. Both

performers

are on the piano faculty at Westminster College of Rider University.

No label claims credit for the release, which was made possible in

part by an award from Rider. Lehrer provides the brief program notes.

The program runs from Mozart to Rachmaninoff via two contemporary

composers, Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee, and Laurie Altman, a Westminster

colleague of the performers. Both of the contemporary pieces are

pleasingly

accessible.

Barton and Lehrer give the music an appealing sense of momentum. In

the Mozart a leisurely second movement is sunny enough to be a

suitable

companion for perky outer movements. In Rachmaninoff’s four-movement

Suite No. 2 Barton and Lehrer reveal a more playful Russian than

ordinarily

meets the ear. Despite playing on two pianos, which can sometimes

be a muddy musical vehicle, Barton and Lehrer reveal the lighter side

of this intense composer.

Organist Andrew Shenton, John Bertalot’s successor as

music director of Princeton’s Trinity Church, marks his arrival in

Princeton with a CD that shows the many moods of the organ on an

Ethereal

Recording release. Recorded on the Skinner-Mander organ of Princeton

University Chapel, the CD includes music by Bach and his contemporary

Georg Boehm, Felix Mendelssohn, and 20th composers. A blues piece

by Joe Utterbeck has the organ entering into a contemporary style

with which it is not normally associated. Shenton is out to show the

organ’s versatility. His program notes incorporate his reactions to

the music and gently explain musical matters without getting terribly

technical.

Shenton produces a great variety of sound in this recording. It ranges

from the high-pitched silvery sounds of Nigel Ogden’s "Scherzo

for the White Rabbit" to the visceral low-pitched vibrations of

Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D-minor," one of the most

celebrated

pieces for organ. Shenton concludes by shaking the surroundings again

with the "Variations de Concert" of Joseph Bonnet, who died

in 1940. He spins an atmosphere of intimacy in the recording. It is

as if the listener were alone in a large sacred space while the

organist

is practicing.

Philomel, the Philadelphia-based baroque music group that

this year adds a Princeton series to its activities, focuses on the

music of Bach’s contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann in a Centaur

recording

consisting of two concertos and an orchestral suite. The group divides

their favors between winds and strings in the concertos, of which

one is for recorder and bassoon, and the other for viola. Soloists

are Elissa Berardi, recorder; Dennis Godburn, bassoon; and David

Miller,

viola. The continuo is provided by harpsichordist Bruce Bekker,

cellist

Vivian Barton, and violone player Anne Trout, who have a singular

capacity to play lightly in support of solo instruments. The program

notes are by harpsichordist Bekker, who is co-founder and artistic

director of the group.

Since Philomel uses authentic instruments, it brings the listener

back in time to the year 1750 or so, when string instruments used

gut strings, and truly bow-shaped bows; when wind instruments had

not yet acquired the valves of their modern descendants; and when

pitches were lower than what modern ears are used to. Despite its

old-fashioned qualities, virtuosity is demanded and precision is

required

to bring the music to presentday audiences. Philomel has those

qualities

in abundance.

The Princeton-based American Boychoir lets its voices

be heard in a CD called "Sing!" issued by ABS Recordings.

The recording consists of three groups of songs, and an encore. A

first group labeled "Sing for the Joy of It" is primarily

music written before 1800. A second group, "Global Songs,"

includes music from Hungary, England, Germany, Serbia, Scotland, and

Africa. "Songs Americans Sing" consists of spirituals and

a Gershwin medley arranged by Trenton’s Bill Holcombe, with an encore

of "America the Beautiful." Participating in the recording

are two American Boychoir concert choirs, as well as the resident

training choir. Some of the piano accompaniments are performed by

pianists who are members of the choir, all boys ranging in age from

9 to 14.

The opening pieces on the CD are by Michael Haydn, brother of Franz

Josef. They give the boys a chance to display the clarity and accuracy

of their voices. In the first group of songs the choir establishes

that its innocence and musical energy has a highly professional edge

to it. The group of global songs ranges from Ralph Vaughan Williams’

pensive "Willow Song" to yipping and hollering in the African

songs. In the group of American songs the black contribution to

American

music becomes clear. The ABC is, to my mind an American treasure,

revealing that American youngsters possess the discipline and

fortitude

needed for exemplary achievement. In this recording those qualities

take on musical form.

The Boychoir and the Westminster Choir College Symphonic Choir also

participate in a Teldec recording of Benjamin Britten’s "War

Requiem"

with the New York Philharmonic issued in May.

Top Of Page
A Baker’s Dozen:

Blues & Roots-Rock

by Richard J. Skelly

If you’re a working musician or band, what better way

to encourage airplay at college or public radio stations than by

pressing

your own CD? More importantly, what better way to secure a booking

at that sought-after club or coffee house in New York or Philadelphia?

Beginning in about 1990, the cost of pressing 1,000 of your own CDs

began to drop. The trend has continued and with DiscMakers located

right in Pennsauken, many Garden State bands have made compact discs

the chosen format for their albums, as opposed to a cassette-only

release of previous years.

Here, in no particular order, are the top local blues CDs that have

crossed my desk in the last year or so. Where applicable, I’ve listed

addresses for ordering, and in some cases, you may just have to show

up at a gig to purchase a disk.

B.B. & The Stingers, "First Blues Band On Venus."

South Plainfield guitarist and songwriter Bernie Brausewetter is one

of a few musicians on the Garden State music scene who makes his

living

entirely through music. He teaches guitar in the basement of his home

— yes, he owns it — in South Plainfield. Inventive lyrics,

stunningly good guitar playing, and creative accompaniment from

bassist

Bill Cherensky and drummer Bob Butterfield are all over this CD.

Eye-catching

graphics and track-by-track listings on the back cover have encouraged

airplay as far away as Germany and Spain.

B.B. & The Stingers, 206 Redding Avenue, South Plainfield 07080.

www.badweb.com/bb/

Rhett Tyler and Early Warning, "My Passion." Tyler

leads another "power trio," Early Warning, a group that blew

the socks off the crowd at the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Festival

in Red Bank last June. If you miss the late Stevie Ray Vaughan as

much as I do, then Tyler is your man. Tyler spent time backing singer

Ruth Copeland in the 1970s and he remains one of the greatest and

most unheralded guitarists and singers on the local blues and

blues-rock

scene.

Tyler’s CD "My Passion" clocks in at just under 75 minutes,

which gives you an idea of what his live shows are like. He certainly

takes care of his fans and gives them a show, whether its in

pre-recorded

format or live in a club.

John Martin Entertainment Group, Box 621, Saddle River 07458-0621.

Barbecue Bob and the Spare Ribs, "After School

Special."

This New Brunswick-based quartet is led by Bob Pomeroy, an architect

and designer by day and a bluesman by night. Using an analog,

transistor-tube-based

studio in Brooklyn, the band comes up with winning tracks on

"After

School Special." Live, as on their CD, the band plays an artful

mix of swamp blues, blues-influenced country music a la Hank Williams,

and gritty urban blues. Da Da Records, Box 112, New Brunswick

08903-0112.

Nasty Ned and the Famous Chili Dogs, "Just Like

Life."

Led by vocalist and songwriter "Nasty Ned" Petti and guitarist

Lee Fink, of Middlesex and Bound Brook, respectively, Nasty Ned and

the Famous Chili Dogs tackle just two covers on this album. Original

rocking blues and swing tunes are the order of the day here, as well

as a few soul-drenched ballads, like "Lay Down With You."

The other tracks, "Suspicious," "Just Like Life" are

classics.

Off stage Ned Petti is a disarmingly nice guy and doesn’t live up

to his jokingly named moniker "nasty." This album was released

several years ago, but if you show up at one of their gigs, they may

still have copies.

Interstate Records, Box 42, Bound Brook 08805.

Paul Whistler’s Leopard Skin Revue, "Spotted

Fever."

Longtime Jersey Shore area guitarist Paul Whistler played with Bruce

Springsteen and Southside Johnny, among others, back in the 1970s.

He moved to Portland, Oregon, in the late 1980s, as he saw what

remained

of the Shore’s roots-rock club scene dry up and float away.

Fortunately

for us, he made a fairly prompt retreat back to Jersey City, where

he’s now based. Whistler and his band, which includes his wife, Nora

Michaels, on lead vocals, can be found playing clubs like Chicago

Blues in lower Manhattan and clubs along the Jersey Shore.

His second album in five years, "Spotted Fever" features

Michael’s

vocals on classic Whistler-penned songs like "High Heeled

Blues,"

an ode to women who wear heels to look good, and "Red Eye To

Miami."

Beatnik Records, 280 Boulevard Way, New Milford 07646; 201-

262-5202.

Boxcar Joe Laing, "Boxfull of Blues." Like

Barbecue

Bob, Joe Laing works an interesting day job: a cameraman for ABC News’

"World News Tonight" and other television news. This

Moonachie-based

singer and songwriter also happens to be one of the best sound men

a New York club ever had. He was the sound man at Manny’s Car Wash,

where this album was recorded, and he puts his own spin on classic

R&B and soul tunes like "(Sittin’ On The) Dock Of The Bay"

"Let The Good Times Roll" and "The Things I Used To

Do."

Recorded live at Manny’s Car Wash, as opposed to a studio, makes it

a bit less costly, but Laing also has a studio CD of originals in

the works. This album includes his blues ode for commuters, "Mad

Dash For The City." Hopefully, the boxcar’s frantic television

schedule will ease up a bit so he can frequent New Jersey clubs more

often.

Starhill Music, Box 1325, Secaucus 07096; 212-978-8506.

Black Widow Band, "Rock Bottom." Led by

Passaic-based

saxophonist Larry Lacasta, the Black Widow Blues Band is by no means

a straight-ahead blues band. This eight-piece band with horns plays

swing tunes, soul ballads and early rock ‘n’ roll at its live shows.

The debut album, recorded simply without a lot of embellishment, is

a good reflection of what the band does so well in concert: an

eclectic

range of tunes, including "Caldonia," "Shot Gun,"

"Stormy Monday" and "Tighten Up." Slower soul ballads

and dance tunes gets the band a lot of work in dance clubs, blues

clubs, brew pubs, festivals and even the occasional wedding.

There’s no address or phone on disc, so show up at gig. Caution: you

may be blown away by the horn section.

Billy Hector, "Hard To Please." Like Brausewetter,

Spring Lake-based Billy Hector is one of a few guitarists I know of

in the Garden State who makes his living completely from his music.

Hector and his trio can be found playing everywhere from Stanhope

House in Stanhope to clubs from the northern stretches of the Jersey

Shore like Atlantic Highlands, all the way down to the Rockin’ Chair

Saloon in Avalon.

Hector has his own record company, Ghetto Surf music, and he has

recorded

five or six CDs in the last 10 years, including a couple of less

expensive

live recordings, "And The Crowd Went Wild," "And The Crowd

Went Wild… Again." On "Hard To Please," Hector sounds

like Bob Dylan at times, and he mixes acoustic blues numbers with

other rocking blues tunes where he’s backed by his trio.

Ghetto Surf Music, Box 673, Spring Lake Heights 07762;

www.billyhector.com.

Dave Keyes, "Tear It Up." Dave Keyes is a

keyboardist

who currently works on Broadway in "Smokey Joe’s Cafe," and

works as keyboardist with David Johansen’s Spanish Rocketship Band.

Keyes’ second CD, "Tear It Up," is a masterpiece of original

lyrics that includes tunes like "Jimmy’s Boogie" his ode to

Chicago blues pianist Jimmy Yancey, "My Plymouth Car" and

"Water These Roots." Keyes’ high fidelity CD has received

airplay on the blues hour on WBGO-FM, Newark Public Radio, and several

stations in upstate New York.

Keyesland Music, 914-753-6914.

Scarlett Blue Band, "Scarlett." New

Brunswick-based

blues and jazz singer Scarlett "Lee" Moore had a high falutin’

day job at Johnson & Johnson as a video conferencing specialist before

she ditched that career for one as a blues singer. Unlike many of

the others on this page, Moore spared no expense on her debut CD,

and spent in excess of $10,000 on her album.

She tackles songs made popular by Etta James, like "Jump Into

My Fire" and Bill Withers’ soulful "Use Me," and

"Grandma’s

Hands," but also highlights the work of local songwriters like

Connie Bryson, the mother of jazz chanteuse Jeanie Bryson. Songs by

Bryson include "One Good Man" the salsa-flavored "Corny

Little Hip Hop Guy," and "She Put A Curse On Me." Anyone

who’s seen Scarlett and her band live knows she’s an intense

singer-entertainer

who puts a lot of passion, humor and good feelings into her live

performances.

Her debut CD reflects this feeling.

Scarlett Fever Records; 732-745-7628; fax, 732-745-7969.

www.scarletfever.com.

The Fins, "Bluesprint." The Fins were swinging

before the current swing craze hit Jersey’s live music clubs. Led

by Edison-based guitarist and singer Benny "Hi-Fi" Suriano,

this band believes in paying homage to the masters of swing music

before it was swing music, when it was known simply as rhythm and

blues. The Fins interpret classic, familiar fare by T-Bone Walker

and Henry Mancini’s "Peter Gunn" theme, tunes that have gotten

lost in the current swing revival, including "Okie Dokie

Stomp"

and "It Should Have Been Me."

Recorded and mixed locally at Trax East in South River, the Fins have

played festivals as far away as Idaho and Florida based on the

strength

of this CD, and they’ve also received generous airplay on WBGO, Newark

and stations in upstate New York. The band also played at many of

President Clinton’s New Jersey campaign stops and played at his first

inauguration. They can be found playing at a variety of New Jersey

music clubs.

The Fins, 800-333-FINS, 9 Old Post Road, Edison 08817;

http://users.aol.com/the

fins/.

The VooDUDES, "Night Of The Living Dudes." Every

night is New Year’s Eve when the VooDUDES are playing. They’re known

for their easy rapport with their audiences and humorous stage antics,

but underneath the showmanship and humor is a lot of solid

musicianship:

Gary Ambrosy, one of the state’s best slide guitarists, and his

brother,

drummer Dave Ambrosy, from East Brunswick and North Brunswick

respectively.

The VooDUDES were playing New Orleans and other music indigenous to

southwest Louisiana before anyone else on the New Jersey/New York

club scene. Recorded in a studio in Howell Township before a live

audience, and very well mixed and mastered, this CD is a good

reflection

of what their live shows are like.

The VooDUDES, Box 1413, Highland Park 08904; 732-249-5892;

www.bike.princeton.edu/voodude/.

Other recent arrivals at the U.S. 1 offices:

October Baby, "Tales From The Pumpkin Patch."

A hard rocking quartet from Princeton Junction, not for the faint

of heart. If you like your rock ‘n’ roll loud and raucous, this is

the band for you. Well-produced and well-mixed.

Wet Duck Records, Box 774, Princeton Junction 08550.

Granian, "Without Change." This smooth acousti-pop

quartet from Holmdel has got its act together. Nice melodies, creative

lyrics, good harmonies, and an all important sense of dynamics as

ensemble players. Also, very unpretentious computer-generated art

on the front cover and photo of the band members on inside lyrics

booklet. Recorded at the Lincroft home studio of Bob Butterfield,

drummer for B.B. & The Stingers!

Granian, Box 26, Holmdel 07733; www.granian.com.

Jersey Transit, "Bumpy Road To Love." Fans of

urban group harmony, or doo-wop, may take a shining to this band.

The group’s holiday concert is December 18 at Odette’s. Good standards

from Irving Berlin, "What’ll I Do" and Cole Porter, "What

Is This Thing Called Love?" But also more modern fare like "I

Can’t Make You Love Me" and "What I Like About You."

Jersey

Tansit, Box 173, Pennington 08534; 800-598-4465, ext. 140;

www.jerseytransit.org.


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