Sound Advice by Joseph Molnar

Varese Sarabande has released a trio of CDs featuring Broadway music as reinterpreted by jazz musicians. This may not be of interest to every musical theater fan, so I will briefly run through each of them.

With Cabaret playing to packed houses on Broadway, there seems to be a slew of CDs of this score coming out everyday. Cabaret: Themes from the Hit Musical is the fourth recording of this score to be released since the end of last year. This time it is covered by the Brad Ellis Little Big Band, who gave us last year's Chicago ... and all that jazz and Ragtime: Themes from the Hit Musical, which I reviewed a few months ago.

This is a jazz interpretation of the score that stays faithful to the original. There are no surprises here except for "Perfectly Marvelous", which is taken at a very slow pace. Cabaret is perfectly suited to this kind of interpretation, since the score is already written for a cabaret setting. The program seems to follow the score as it is currently being performed on Broadway. Only "Don't Go" has been added, a song which was added in the 1987 Broadway revival. As in the current production, both of Clifford Bradshaw's songs, "The Telephone Song" and "Why Should I Wake Up?", are omitted from this recording. This is one of musical theater's most exciting scores and this new rendition by an 8-piece jazz combo certainly proves that.

In sharp contrast to the Cabaret CD is the Follies score as interpreted by Terry Trotter, who is continuing his excellent series of Stephen Sondheim scores in jazz. This recording (performed by a jazz trio: Mr. Trotter on piano, Tom Washington on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums) follows in the footsteps of his previous recordings of Passion, Sweeney Todd, Company, A Little Night Music, and, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. As he did on these other recordings, Mr. Trotter veers from the melody and makes the tune barely recognizable. This CD prove s once again that Mr. Sondheim, who has been accused of being unable to write a hummable melody, is more than capable of writing a beautiful tune. Mr. Trotter's expert piano playing and arrangements are a joy to hear, as always. Anyone who owns the previous recordings will want to seek this one out. You will not be disappointed.

The last Broadway jazz CD is Broadway's Biggest '97 -'98. First off, I have a problem with the title of this disc. I believe it implies that you will be hearing songs from the biggest hit shows which opened on Broadway last season. This is not so. First, there are two songs included from the '96/'97 season, "We'll Meet Tomorrow" from Titanic and "This is the Moment" from Jekyll & Hyde. Secondly, there are no less than four tunes from flop musicals. Third, there is one song that wasn't even performed on Broadway; "Home Again" from The Scarlet Pimpernel was only heard on the concept CD. How can this CD be Broadway's Biggest from '97 - '98? I am not sure. At any rate, it is performed by Grant Geissman on electric and classical guitars.

Broadway's Biggest '97 - '98 sort of falls between the other two jazz interpretations as it is performed by a 5-piece combo. It has a fuller sound than the Follies CD, but not as full as Cabaret. Side Show's "Who Will Love Me as I Am?", "Goodbye my Love& quot; from Ragtime, and The Capeman's two numbers, "Satin Summer Nights" and "Born in Puerto Rico", come off best. Only The Lion King's two numbers come off sounding strange and barely recognizable. This CD may be of interest to Triumph of Love fans, as it includes the first recording of a song from that show, "Anything."

Well, that's all for this week. Till next time, happy listening.

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