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Paul Jacobs Plays Blues, Ballads & Rags - Copland, Rzewski, Bolcom

Release Date: 06/23/2011 
Label:  Nonesuch   Catalog #: 79006   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William BolcomAaron CoplandFrederic Rzewski
Performer:  Paul Jacobs
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 51 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A classic record that shows us composers making formal use of jazz and blues, with superlative playing from Paul Jacobs.

Jacobs brings Copland's Four Piano Blues and Bolcom's Three Rags to life with idiomatic elegance, aided by a full-bodied early digital recording made at the Columbia 30th Street Studio. The premiere recording of Rzewski's Four North American Ballads (written for Jacobs) is unsurpassed in the way Jacobs balances contrapuntal lines within even the thickest textures ("Winnsboro Cotton Mill blues," for example).

-- Jed Distler, Gramophone [12/2011]


The Copland and Rzewski pieces show us composers making formal use of jazz and related materials,
Read more the former's Blues being classics of the genre, the latter's Ballads a worthy addition to the canon. Jacobs's performances, as on his earlier Nonesuch LPs of Debussy, Schoenberg and Busoni, are superlative and receive a sympathetic digital recording. Virtually my sole reservation with regard to the Copland pieces concerns No. 3, the return of the opening phrase in bar 9, marked mf, being played so loudly that there is no contrast with the succeeding if idea; similarly on the final page of this item there is insufficient differentiation between pp and mf.

Frederic Rzewski's pieces use traditional melodies but employ more complex techniques of composition and are far more virtuosic. Their development is quite elaborate, the melodies being broken up and new material derived from the fragments; also, a great variety of keyboard resource is brought into play. They are all attractive, but "Winnsborough cotton mill blues" is the longest and easily the most remarkable item on the disc. As Jacobs says in his sleeve-note, it "is about the textile mills", and evokes "the terrible din the machines made". This is done with far more imagination than in, say, Mosolov's The foundry, and its use of repetitive patterns is reminiscent of composers such as Steve Reich. Gradually the melody on which the piece is based emerges from the noise of the machinery, and in the end triumphs. A memorable work.

Unfortunately, although there are many other fine pieces in this genre that Jacobs could have chosen, he weakens his programme by completing it with William Bolcom's Rags. These are among the many pastiches of the ragtime idiom which appeared in the wake of the revival of interest in that music which occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s. The first, "Graceful ghost", has a wistful charm, yet they are a waste both of Jacobs's time and of ours.

-- Gramophone [3/1982]
reviewing the original LP release
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Works on This Recording

Ghost Rags (3) by William Bolcom
Performer:  Paul Jacobs (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
Four Piano Blues by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Paul Jacobs (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926-1948; USA 
North American Ballads (4) for Piano by Frederic Rzewski
Performer:  Paul Jacobs (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; USA 

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