Stephen Paulus was an astonishingly prolific fixture of the American music scene, with some 600 works to his credit. His sudden death in 2014 left classical music—particularly the worlds of opera and choral music—significantly the poorer, so it’s inevitable that we should see his legacy memorialised with new additions to the catalogue. Royal Holloway’s ‘Calm on the Listening Ear of Night’ sets Paulus’s music in dialogue with another Midwestern composer, René Clausen. It’s Clausen whose musical personality emerges most strongly here in these precise performances. His works offer a distinctively American spin on the fashionable Baltic sound world of Ešenvalds and Vasks that is as appealing as it is generous. In pace, which opens the disc, offers eight minutes of lushly filmic excess.
The Chicago Transit Authority recorded this double-barreled follow-up to their eponymously titled 1969 debut effort. The contents of Chicago II (1970) underscore the solid foundation of complex jazz changes with heavy electric rock & roll that the band so brazenly forged on the first set. The septet also continued its ability to blend the seemingly divergent musical styles into some of the best and most effective pop music of the era. One thing that had changed was the band's name, which was shortened to simply Chicago to avoid any potential litigious situations from the city of Chicago's transportation department – which claimed the name as proprietary property. Musically, James Pankow (trombone) was about to further cross-pollinate the band's sound with the multifaceted six-song "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon." The classically inspired suite also garnered the band two of its most beloved hits – the upbeat pop opener "Make Me Smile" as well as the achingly poignant "Color My World" – both of which remained at the center of the group's live sets.
Drummer Dan Brubeck, son of the late Dave Brubeck, pays homage to his parents in a most appropriate way. He puts the proper frame around the songbook created by his mother and father over their 70-year performance career. Using the saxophone quartet format his father blazed jazz trails with, Brubeck leads his quartet through 14 Brubeck originals at Vancouver's Cellar recorded in August 2013. Bassist Adam Thomas proves to be a fine vocalist for the special material, never obscuring the pieces with technical attempts to impress. Urbane and amiable, this collection has been a long time coming and now that it is here, we can fully appreciate the art of Dave and Iola Brubeck.