REVIEW POTPOURRI – John Coltrane: Lush Life

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Lush Life

John Coltrane, tenor sax
Heritage, 513289L, CD, 1987 reissue of sessions from 1957-58.

John Coltrane

One of the greatest saxophone players in the history of jazz, John Coltrane (1926-1967) left a huge recorded legacy, each listing imbued with consistently high quality. Lush Life gathers five previously available selections from the late ‘50s – Like Someone in Love, Cole Porter’s I Love You, Trane’s Slow Blues, I Hear a Rhapsody and the title composition by Billy Strayhorn.

He assembled several distinguished musicians including Donald Byrd on trumpet, pianist Red Garland, Earl May and Paul Chambers playing bass and drummers Art Taylor, Louis Hayes and Al Heath.

The entire CD is very good but my absolute favorite is Lush Life with very beautiful playing by Coltrane, Garland, Chambers, Byrd and Hayes. It evokes loneliness with haunting eloquence. Strayhorn wrote the piece during the 1930s while many singers and instrumentalists have also recorded it.

Jazz critic Joe Goldberg’s insightful liner notes are included with the CD.


Don Rickles

From the late, great cheap shot jokester/comedy star, Don Rickles, 1926-2017. – “I don’t drink much anymore, but when I traveled with Frank Sinatra, God rest his soul, I used to drink like I could do it. He made it a test. In Vegas, the Rat Pack, which I was a little part of, drank all night and slept most of the day. Then, about 5 o’clock, we’d meet in the hotel steam room, lock the door, and steam our brains out.”





Josef Krips

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Strauss Waltzes

conducting the Vienna Symphony; Madacy, MKC 1825, cassette.

Conductor Josef Krips (1902-1974) was distinguished by his work in helping to rebuild the Vienna State Opera during the post-World War II years; he also made many recordings of the Central European repertoire-Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc. – that were released in this country, mostly on London and a few other labels. And they were consistently good.

Johann Strauss

The above cassette has a program of 13 Waltzes by the great Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899), excluding the justly classic Blue Danube, Tales from the Vienna Woods and Emperor Waltz, but containing the charming Million Embraces, Lagoon Waltz, Where the Lemons Bloom, Thousand and One Nights, AND the intriguing title You Only Live Once, no relation to 007. The Vienna Symphony sounds smaller-scaled in number of players but handles the tricky rhythms of this music with ease.

Krips had quite the appetite for tasty food and was seen devouring a large bucket of fried chicken for lunch during a recording session. Google photos of his corpulent figure testify to this.

The records of his that stick out in my mind are the two different Brahms First Symphonies and the 4th, Schubert’s 6th, and all Beethoven nine Symphonies and five Piano Concertos, with Artur Rubinstein.

Jim Thompson quote: “What smells good in the store may stink in the stewpot.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The night E.B. White stayed in China Village

E. B.White

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

When I wrote about E.B. White’s Elements of Style for my February 14, 2019, column, I expressed my intent to devote another column or more in coming weeks, not only because of his phenomenal quality and quantity of writing, but also of the many years he and his wife lived in Maine.

I didn’t realize how soon until I received a phone call from Mrs. Janet Dow, with respect to my Valentine’s Day column. She told me of some paragraphs from White’s book, One Man’s Meat, in the form of a diary entry, devoted to the January 1941 night when the writer, his wife and their son slept at a China Village, Maine, inn owned by Mrs. Dow’s mother, Letha Wilson. Since China Village is located in my neck of the woods, this week’s column will consist of E.B. White’s paragraphs about that night:

Sunday. All three of us to the faraway doctor yesterday through snow and bad temper, the temper being mine; but it comes from my nose not my heart. The doctor took X-ray pictures of our son’s antra and wants to bore some holes in his head, which made me sick and discouraged all day and worried. We started driving back home just before dark, but I was doubtful that we could make it, as the snow had begun to drift across the highway and it was still snowing hard. Couldn’t see the road very well, so when we drew into the village of China I decided we had had enough of storm and bone cavities for one day, enough of doubts and slippery surfaces, so we drove into the garage of R.E. Coombs and he told us we might find lodging at an inn across the way.

No lights showed, but we waded up to the door and were welcomed by Mrs. Wilson, the proprietress, who was surprised to find guests in winter but took us in anyway and gave us some Saturday-night baked beans and brown bread with a dessert of preserved strawberries; and we moved the davenport from the living room into a big chamber across the hall to make the third bed. After supper we had a talk with our hostess about education, a subject on which she turned out to be an authority, because in winter-time, when innkeeping is slow, she occupies herself by teaching a district school and has nine schools under her.

She thought consolidation of schools in her town would probably be a good thing, but that there was strong opposition to it. And she told us that, although the disadvantages of the one-room school were very great, there were some compensating things too, principally that the pupils in such a school gained of necessity a certain independence at an early age, realizing that they had to progress in scholarship almost unassisted if they were to progress at all. She had taught also in Augusta, where she had only one grade to instruct, and she said it was noticeable how much more reliant on the teacher were the pupils there than in the country school.

I believe that, too, and my guess is that the Little Red School of yesterday produced a lower average of intelligence but produced occasional individuals who had the very best education there is, namely the knack and the will to seek and gain knowledge independently, without having it spooned out.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Vivaldi, Chopin and organ music

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


Various Concertos
Karl Ristenpart conducting the Chamber Orchestra of the Sarre; Nonesuch H-71022; stereo LP, recorded early 1960s.

Karl Ristenpart

Karl Ristenpart (1900-1967) was one of the most solid interpreters of Antonio Vivaldi’s music, along with that of Johann Sebastian Bach and others. He made a large number of recordings between the early-to-mid-’50s and his very sudden death from a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1967, during a tour with his Sarre players in Portugal.

Vivaldi wrote a huge quantity of music, also sustained by exceptional quality. There are five Concertos on the above album, the A minor and C Major ones for piccolo with Roger Bourdin; one also in A minor for violin; a D minor for two violins and an F Major for three violins, featuring the Sarre concertmaster Georg-Friedrich Hendel in all three works, Klaus Schlupp as second violinist in the D minor and F Major, and Hans Bunte in the F Major. The five Concertos are captivating, the performances top notch.

Some other recent listening experiences:

Chopin’s Opus 10 Etudes and F Major Ballade

Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist; Hall of Fame, HOF 520, LP.

Vladimir Ashkenazy

The 82-year-old pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy is more active as a conductor for the last 30 years. This LP consists of recordings before the 1962 Second Tchaikovsky Competition, in Moscow, through which he shared first prize with the late pianist John Ogden. They have extraordinary intensity, virtuosity and color, compared to his later Decca/London recordings of the composer that were a bit more aloof .

The last of the 12 Etudes from Opus 10 (there is a later set, Opus 25), known as the Revolutionary Etude, comes from 1831 when the Russian army suppressed Poland’s revolution by attacking Warsaw. Chopin wrote, “All this has caused me much pain. Who could have foreseen it?” It was dedicated to Franz Liszt.

19th-Century Austrian Organ Music

Franz Haselbock, organist; MHS 1972, LP, released 1974.

Anton Bruckner

Side one of the above LP is devoted to the small number of organ pieces composed by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), an organist himself, whose powerful nine symphonies are staples of the orchestral repertoire. The second side contains selected works of the lesser known organist, Simon Sechter (1788-1867), one of Bruckner’s teachers. This music, while not on the same level as Bach’s, is worthwhile and quite moving.

Franz Haselbock gave fine performances and wrote interesting liner notes. He played the Bruckner Organ of the Piaristenkirche, located in Vienna, Austria, and considered one of its finest. Built 1856-58, it was played by Bruckner several times; hence its name.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – E.B. White: The Elements of Style

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

E.B. White

The Elements of Style
(with William Strunk, Jr.), 4th edition – Longman Publishers; 1935, 1959, 1979, 1999; 95 pages.

Although Elwyn Brooks White (1899-1985), better known as E.B. White, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the family vacations during his childhood in Maine’s Belgrade Lakes, the routines of farm life and the workings of nature, enriched his own writings. In addition, he spent many years of his adulthood living on, and working, his farm in Brooklin, Maine, near Deer Isle and Stonington. These years, with the many New Yorker contributions, added much.

I hope to devote another column or more in the weeks ahead to White. This week I am focusing on The Elements of Style, a 1935 book on writing by his English professor at Cornell, William Strunk Jr. (1869-1946). White edited and revised extensively, in 1959 and 1979, editions before his own death in 1985. Some extras were tacked on the above 1999 fourth edition by his stepson, Roger Angell, himself a noted writer on baseball and still living in his 99th year.

The 95 pages of content mirror Strunk and White’s commitment to saving teacher and student hard labor yet keeping the book concise and most helpful to anyone who writes lots of words in a week. I offer choice quotations from both men:

“‘Omit needless words’ cries the author on page 23, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul. In the days when I was sitting in his class, he omitted so many needless words, and omitted them so forcibly and with such eagerness and obvious relish, that he often seemed in the position of having shortchanged himself – a man left with nothing more to say yet with time to fill, a radio prophet who had out-distanced the clock. Will Strunk got out of this predicament by a simple trick: he uttered every sentence three times. When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and, in a husky, conspiratorial voice, said, ‘Rule Seventeen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!’ ”

Actually, I have found this book in one or two earlier copies, very edifying for more than 40 years.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Observing 60th anniversary of the “Day the Music Died”

The debris field of Buddy Holly’s chartered Beech Bonanza aircraft on February 3, 1959. Internet photo

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

This past Sunday, February 3, was the 60th anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of all four passengers on board shortly after takeoff near Clear Lake, Iowa – singers Buddy Holly, 22; Ritchie Valens,17; and Big Bopper, 28; and pilot Roger Peterson, 21. The details can be found via many sources, conveniently including Google, Wiki etc., of what Don McLean’s 1971 song American Pie aptly referred to as “The Day the Music Died”!

Buddy Holly

I would like to call attention to two fine records of each of the singers – one well-known and one not so well-known:

Buddy Holly recorded the riveting That’ll Be the Day and the much lesser-known love song Every Day and conveyed the most vivid immediacy in his singing. During the mid 1960s, Skeeter Davis did an RCA Victor LP of Holly’s material with his parents attending the studio sessions in Nashville.

Ritchie Valens

The Ritchie Valens La Bamba is justly classic because of its several reappearances in the public eyes and ears while the unknown Little Girl has a romantic tenderness all its own. Interestingly, although his parents were from Mexico, he learned very little Spanish because they spoke English at home.

J.P. Richardson

Big Bopper’s (editor’s note: actual name is J.P Richard­son) Chantilly Lace is one roaring example of his baritone/bass vocalism. His very first documented 45 record Beggar to a King with a higher, softer voice was a later hit for the Cana­dian country singer, Hank Snow.

Waylon Jennings

Editor’s note: Country/­western singer Waylon Jennings was also reportedly scheduled to be on that flight, but gave up his seat to the Big Bopper. The story is told that Jennings gave up his seat on the ill-fated flight in 1959 that crashed, killing Buddy Holly, J. P. Richard­son, Ritchie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson. They were on their way to Moorhead, Minnesota, for their next concert. Band member Tommy Allsup lost his seat to Valens on a coin toss. Both Jen­nings and Allsup continued on the bus.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: A collection of great classical recordings

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade

William Stenberg conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Capitol P 8305, LP, recorded 1955.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

William Steinberg had a style of conducting in which the most often recorded works (and I still persist in my fascination with duplicates of favorite pieces of music) sounded freshly minted; his LP of Scheher­azade kept me listening from beginning to end and is available on Internet sites.

Other classical recordings recently heard and worthy of attention:

Pietro Mascagni

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana – Domenico Savino conducting the Rome Symphony Orchestra, Kapp LP, KCL-9003, recorded between late 1950s to early ’60s. Kapp released mostly popular artists such as pianist Roger Williams, arranger/conductor Marty Gold and singer Jack Jones but it did have a few classical titles including the series, Opera Without Words, featuring Domenico Savino and his Rome instrumentalists. Along with Puccini’s Turandot, Verdi’s La Forza del Destino and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Savino did an orchestral synthesis of the ever-inspired Cavalleria Rusticana of Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945). The singing is missed but the orchestral passages still shine; I played the record twice within a week recently.

Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi: Four Seasons – Iona Brown as soloist and conducting the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philips 9500717 LP, 1979. The late Iona Brown (1941-2004) delivered a more understated performance of Vivaldi’s Seasons than is usually the case but her own vibrant musicianship enlivened this recording, one holding its own among many good renditions.

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings; Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; Sir Georg Solti conducting the Israel Philharmonic, London CS 6066, LP, recorded 1963. Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997) delivered a surging, intense performance of Tchai­kov­sky’s Serenade, one that stands with the Eugene Ormandy Philadelphia Orchestra Sony CD as exceptional; the Mozart is good but not as distinguished as those of other conductors. But Solti’s legacy of recordings is a great one. I recommend watching a 60 minute YouTube video of him rehearsing the Vienna Philharmonic playing Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture, from 1966. It is fascinating in how he goes over details of the score and relates to the orchestra.

Quote from the late humorist James Thurber (1894-1961) – “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Anton Eberl; Broadway: Company

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Eberl Symphony in E-flat Major from 1803

Concerto Koln, YouTube

Anton Eberl

Anton Eberl (1765-1807) was an Austrian composer with 200 works, many of them now lost. He was acclaimed as a pianist and teacher, knew Mozart, was a very close friend of Beethoven and much loved by others during his lifetime.

The composer and his wife traveled to Rus­sia, living in St. Petersburg for several years. But his home was Vienna for most of his life.

Eberl died of scarlet fever in 1807 at the age of 41. Afterwards, for over 167 years, he went into obscurity for mysterious reasons until the slow-moving revival of interest, in 1971, in his legacy. Performances and recordings have peaked during the last decade.

Until hearing the highly recommended above YouTube recently, I did not know of him and his music; the Symphony’s individuality, charm and beauty are undeniable. Concerto Koln’s rendition without a conductor is a very good one.


Original Broadway cast recording, recorded May 3, 1970, Sony/Columbia, cd remastering of original LP released in 1998.

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Company, is, for me, one of the finest classical masterpieces in existence, along with Mahler’s 5th Symphony, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, the Brahms D minor PC, Sinatra’s Watertown, Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, the Sibelius’ 7 Symphonies, Beethoven’s own 9 and his 5 PCs, Gershwin’s Concerto in F and the Puccini Tosca and Madame Butterfly with several etceteras. This original Broadway cast recording, supervised by the composer and the phenomenally gifted producer – then employed by Columbia records – Thomas Z. Shepard, is one worth having on the shelf and worth hearing countless numbers of times by a discerning connoisseur of truly beautiful recordings of great music.

Its classics include the eloquent duet, Barcelona, sung by Dean Jones as Bobby, a bachelor living a life of quiet desperation; and Susan Browning as April, a lonely stewardess whose potential for true love keeps being unrequited. Susan Browning died in 2006 at 65 while Dean Jones passed away in 2015 at 65 – both lived good lives and are very much missed .

Others are Being Alive, The Ladies Who Lunch, Little Things You Do Together, Another Hundred People, Getting Married Today, Someone is Waiting, and the opening Overture, one riveting piece of music on its terms, played, cast- sung, and conducted by the exceptionally gifted Harold Hastings, who died of a heart attack in 1973, at the young age of 57.

After a Boston tryout, Company opened at the Alvin Theatre April 26, 1970, generating 690 performances. Mark Kirkeby’s liner notes for the 1998 CD reissue are fascinating, along with Wiki pieces on the musical and Stephen Sondheim.

A quote from the composer- “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Farther Down the Road series contains over 60 volumes

The album, Farther Down the Road

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Farther Down the Road, Volume 2

CBS Special Products, cassette, recorded 1972-1985.

The above was one of a cassette/CD series under the same title of more than 60 volumes, sponsored by Rotella, a line of lubricating products for the heavy duty engines inside extremely large trucks. As with the entire series, this week’s second volume was an anthology of country/western recordings, distributed only through gas stations and truck stops and given to any customer purchasing a minimum of three gallons of the Rotella lubricating oil. Its selections were:

Johnny Cash – One Piece at a Time
Janie Fricke – He’s a Headache
The Gatlin Brothers – Houston
Barbara Mandrell – Midnight Oil
Charlie Daniels Band – Devil Went Down to Georgia
Willie Nelson – Midnight Rider
Tammy Wynette – Another Chance
Ronnie McDowell – Watchin’ Girls Go By
Charly McClain – Men
Merle Haggard – Are the Good Times Really Over ?

My favorites are those by Cash, Nelson and Wynette, the anthology itself being a good one.

A quote from Graham Greene’s essay on Saki, but referring to the novelist who wrote Tale of Two Cities and other such books – “Dickens developed a style so easy and natural that it seems capable of including the whole human race in its understanding.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Bach selections

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Bach selections

from The Joy of Great Music, Album 15, FW-515, LP, 1980 series of records usually peddled in supermarket chains.

Johan Bach

The above album contains the following examples of Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750:

Side 1, Saint Matthew Passion excerpts. Soprano Laurence Dutoit, alto Maria Nussbaumer, bass Otto Weiner, with Ferdinand Grossmann conducting the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Choir.

Side 2, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major. Organist Walter Kraft.

Both originally Vox releases from the 1950s.

Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is roughly three hours long but contains incomparable stretches of beauty in its arias, choruses and instrumental writing. The singers, especially bass Otto Wiener (1911-2000), are in peak form while Grossmann’s Viennese groups do good work. The performance is a large-scaled one, as opposed to smaller ones in recent years, yet a distinctive entry on its own terms and deeply moving.

Walter Kraft

Kraft’s performances of the Toccata, and the E-Flat Prelude and Fugue are solid.

Another LP from the Vox label’s exemplary catalog; the Bartok Bluebeard’s Castle, with Herbert Hafner conducting the Vienna Symphony Symphony, soprano Ilona Steingruber, and bass Otto Weiner again. Vox, OPX 100, 1962 release.

Based on a blood-curdling legend from the Middle Ages, the 1918 opera Bluebeard’s Castle is one roaringly exciting listening experience. This performance is a haunting atmospheric one, despite some critics taking issue with the singing in German instead of the original Hungarian. The 1910-20 World War 1 decade experienced a superb roll call of first performances – Prokofiev’s 2nd Piano Concerto, Janacek’s opera Jenufa, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, Rite of Spring and Soldier’s Tale and Puccini’s Trittico.

A Goethe quote pertinent to artistic creativity, “To be of all ages, be then of your own.”