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LEAVES OF GRASS

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Description

LEAVES OF GRASS

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In 1855, Walt Whitman--arguably the greatest poet the United States ever produced--first published his magnum opus, Leaves of Grass. Now 150 years later, jazz pianist Fred Hersch has skillfully adapted Whitman's work to music. With a mid-sized ensemble featuring cellist Erik Friedlander, saxophonist Tony Malaby, and vocalists Kate McGarry and Kurt Elling, Hersch, himself a fluid and finessed pianist, takes a back seat to his wonderful arrangements, which encompass martial cadences, hymn-like timbres, Latin rhythms, and ballads. Part VII and Part X of "Song of Myself," the longest work on the disc, range from Charles Mingus, Scenes in the City-style effects to a bluesy, down-home slow drag. Clearly, Elling's majestic baritone voice is the centerpiece of this work. He scats like a bop improviser, narrates like a Shakespearean actor, and sings like an opera star. It is fitting that that the elasticity of jazz truly captures the timeless essence of Whitman's words. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 8, 2005)
  • Original Release Date: March 8, 2005
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Palmetto Records
  • ASIN: B0007GADW2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,221 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
As Fred Hersch points out in his liner notes, since the syncopated rhythms of Walt Whitman's poems led directly to the bebop of the Beat Poets, why not set Leaves of Grass to jazz? Selecting 17 passages from Whitman -- 11 of them from Song of Myself -- Hersch adds four horn players, a cellist and two vocalists to his trio to create "a small-scale oratorio." Kate McGarry caresses the spiritual lyrics in "Song of the Universal"; in "The Mystic Trumpeter," she scats with Ralph Alessi, who in turn contributes a cutesy trill on flugelhorn at the outset of "I Celebrate Myself." On "The Sleepers," Whitman's fantasy of universal brotherhood, Tony Malaby's tenor sax complements Kurt Elling's falsetto, with the rhythm section providing a sleepy, minimalist drone. In "A Child Said, `What Is the Grass?'" Hersch's orchestration soars from tenderness to ecstasy.

Most people, perhaps understandably, will browse over jazz-piano-guy-with-nerdy-name-plus-some-poet and walk on by. But if the Venn diagrams of your interests include Whitman and jazz, why not have them intersect? What I assume, you shall assume; we contain multitudes. So does Leaves of Grass.
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Format: Audio CD
If Andrew Lloyd Webber can set the poetry of T.S. Elliott to music ("Cats"), why can't a composer like Fred Hersch do the same with Walt Whitman? Fortunately, for music AND poetry lovers, this jazz pianist and composer has done a less "theatrical"/more reverant exploration of the source material. Hersch is an extraordinary solo pianist and leader of his own critically-acclaimed jazz trio, but he's also a composer who continues to stretch his artistry beyond the boundaries of his genre. With "Leaves of Grass," he creates new musical landscapes that blend elements of both jazz and classical music. The result is a listening experience like no other. While the tone is soft and gentle, this is hardly background music for Sunday morning coffee and the New York Times. Rather, like Whitman's masterpiece for which it is named, it is a contemplative work to savor and revisit like a favorite book of poems. Joined by hipster crooner Kurt Elling, jazz songstress Kate McGarry and seven instrumentalists, Hersch tackles Whitman's epic 600-page tome with aplomb, interpreting the poetry in both melody and spoken word. It's difficult to categorize this work: a jazz/classical chamberpiece cantata might be one way. A compelling excuse to pour a glass of wine or a cup of tea and shut out the noise of the world might be another.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful cd. I searched everywhere for it...was thrilled when I found it on amazon! The vocals are amazing!!!
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By Simon on August 10, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Intelligent modern music performed flawlessly.
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