Monday, May 14, 2007

Man bites dog. . .so to speak

And to think. . .I didn't even know about the new CD by the wonderful opera baritone Thomas Quasthoff until a couple of hours ago and already I have an instant opinion! After reading about it on the net, I downloaded his "The Jazz Album" from Napster.

It's odd that there has been so little Lady-Highbrow-lets-down-her-hair type of publicity about this recent album, especially taking into account Grammy-winning Quasthoff's popularity. When opera star Eileen Farrell effected a similar stylistic turnabout a near-half-century ago---in the "before time"---it was practically front page news.

I have some minor quibbles after an initial listening. A couple of the songs are questionable choices, i.e, "There's a Boat. . .," "Ac-cent-Tchu-ate. . .." And occasionally the German Quasthoff's pronunciation of English verges on the daft. But what a joy it is to hear an entire program of Great American Songbook entries rendered entirely devoid of intonation problems. Plus, he assiduously avoids even a hint of creeping Jim Nabors-Robert Gouletisms. Not too butch, not too femme, but just right! And, mercifully, he doesn't scat even once on the album, though he does in the youtube clip promoting it.

Some will phyrrically argue ad infinitum as to whether this is a jazz album or not, But I can only pre-emptively observe that with the participation throughout of arranger-trumpeter Till Bronner and pianist Alan Broadbent et al, it sure ain't polka. And he sure do swing. I think this is a terrific album.

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