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Bach Improvisations

9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, December 6, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

"Bach Improvisations" is a live CD of improvisations on Bach Chorales, featuring the unique format of piano, cello, and soprano saxophone. The original and highly melodic arrangements of Bach bring his music up to date in an exciting new way.

From the Label

Pianist Ira Stein's career keeps going off in fresh new directions, and this is a really bold venture. Formerly on both Windham Hill (with oboist Russel Walder) and Narada with and without his trio, Ira has done this album independantly on his own Lost Time Records. Most labels are no longer as adventurous and experimental as they were ten years ago, so to keep his artistic vision and integrity, Ira is going it alone. "Bach Improvisations" is so good that it should become an underground hit. This is no smooth jazz/ easy-listening white bread. There is plenty of improvisational muscle behind the nine chorales, and the arrangements are complex and challenging enough to keep listeners discovering new things each time they hear this CD. Ira's elegant pianism strongly reflects both his classical and jazz backgrounds, and he shares the musical spotlight with cellist Joseph Hebert and Dann Zinn on soprano saxophone; all three are amazing musicians. Joe Hebert has to be one of the most versatile cellists around- he plays pizzicato on some tracks, making it sound like he's playing bass; then he soars with full- bowed classical treatment. Dann Zinn's sax definitely pushes this CD farther into jazz territory than classical; he really lets loose on "Liebster, Jesu, wir sind hier" and "Jesu, meine Freude", both of which he arranged or co-arranged with Ira. Ira, Joe, and Dann have been playing together for several years now, and it really shows in the way they blend the sounds of three very different instruments with their own diverse playing styles. All nine cuts are excellent, all offer a different perspective on Bach's short musical themes (the original chorales average about 30 seconds in length), from sweet and flowing to the exhilirating "Jesu, meine Freude" (I attended one of the concerts/ recording sessions for this CD, and can attest that the walls shook and the audience loved this cut!). Ira has been working on this project for several years, and it has been exciting to see it evolve from an idea to this incredible finished project! Very original and very different, good luck to the record stores in finding a bin for this one! Bravo to the Ira Stein Trio for making it happen!

1. The Nine Chorales: Das Neugeborne Kindelein
2. The Nine Chorales: Nun Lieget Alles Unter Dir
3. The Nine Chorales: Es Woll' Uns Gott Gnadig Sein
4. The Nine Chorales: Hilf, Herr Jesu, Lass Gelingen
5. The Nine Chorales: Leibster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier
6. The Nine Chorales: O Mensch, Bewein' Dein' Sunde Gross
7. The Nine Chorales: Wir Glauben All' An Einen Gott, Schopfer
8. The Nine Chorales: Jesu, Mein Freude
9. The Nine Chorales: Komm, Gott Schopfer, Heiliger Geist

Product Details

  • Performer: Ira Stein Trio
  • Audio CD (December 6, 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lost Time
  • ASIN: B00000I6VQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,740 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Last October (1998), when Ira and his group made this live CD at Yoshi's in Oakland, I was unfortunately hospitalized for emergency surgery, so I was unable to attend the concert. When the CD came out, my wife and I bought it, and I was entranced. Then, in March 1999, I was able to hear the group play some of the pieces at Borders in Emeryville. Absolutely top notch, even though Ira had to play a keyboard, and was on his feet the whole time.
These three first class musicians were all educated classically and in this album they not only return to their roots, but also expand the classical Chorales of Bach into what they have called "chamber jazz". Yes, it's jazz, but it's also got a bit of the "new age" about it.
Typically they play through a chorale pretty straight, and then the variations begin. Ira's piano craftsmanship is impeccable, and amazing. I hear Ira play two or three times a week (he's pianist at our church) and I never cease to be amazed at the skill and feeling that he brings to his playing. He improvises better than any pianist I have ever heard. Dann's saxophone is incredible--he is quite possibly the most accomplished saxophonist I have ever heard. Kenny G, eat your heart out. And Joe--he and his cello make love sounds together; it is as if they have become one, and are drawing sounds from the mind of God himself.
You will not believe this CD until you have heard it. I will give you a couple of caveats--I am not a professional musician myself, and I have a conflict of interest in that I know all three artists, and work closely with two of them day in and day out. But let me tell you this: Bach would approve of what they have done with his music. If you love Bach, and love jazz, you must have this CD.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Ira Stein has been a creative and very individual musician since his first releases on Windham Hill. His work on Narada Records further matured his artistic vision and he is now taking a first step with this album, Bach Chorals, to continue his musical expression regardless of what the music industry might find acceptable at the moment. He comes from a musical tradition that many people may not be familiar with but that deserves recognition.The group Oregon (Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless, and others) lay an important foundation for Stein's musical discoveries and his latest explorations into the sacred world of Bach's Chorals shows that he is an artist that deserves to be watched and followed. He is a great musician, a free spirit and a very creative arranger. Keep an eye out for his music in the years to come...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I had the privilege to be present at Yoshi's the night this album was recorded. Everyone there was held spellbound by this music--which is classic and yet modern. Each piece begins with the Bach chorale statement and then these excellent musicians take the melodies present in every level of Bach and make concert jazz. My favorite is number four on the album "Hilf, Herr Jesu, lass gelingen," but the listener cannot go wrong with any of the nine numbers. The instrument combination of piano, cello and soprano saxophone is unusual to me, and I think it would surprise Bach also; but I also believe this is an exceptional way to get an appreciation of the beauty of the classical line while enjoying the modern presentation. The music is decorous and sensual at the same time--a most intriguing mix.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I am Ira Stein's niece, and I have listened to all of his C.D.'s and been to many of his concerts at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA. I think all of his recordings are very good. I really like his new C.D., BACH IMPROVISATIONS. I am 11 years old, and I have enjoyed his music all my life. He plays for me when I visit him in Oakland from my home of 2 years in Portland, OR. He has been playing piano for over 25 years. He is really an example that if you love something and try hard at it, you will succeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JR88 on September 25, 2006
Beautiful and colorful improvs on some Bach favorites, with the piano work of Ira Stein and the sax playing of Dann Zinn being the highlights. The energy and enthusiasm recorded during this session is powerful stuff. Moments of true exhilaration in here. Don't miss this one!
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