REVIEW POTPOURRI – Musician: Sidney Bechet; Albums: Charlie Daniels Band; Opera: Bellini

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Sidney Bechet

The Blue Bechet
RCA Victor LPV-535, LP reissue of 78 originals, released 1966.

Sidney Bechet

To call Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) an ornery cuss would be an understatement. He was COLD – willfully mean, self-centered, and capricious in his cruelty to others. One night, he was drinking tiny glasses of booze, one after another, while listening to a performer he didn’t like in a club. As he emptied each glass, he would throw it at the player.

He was also one supremely talented performer on the clarinet and soprano sax. His playing had an expressive beauty that was uniquely his own. There is not a single selection among the 16 on the above record that is less than good.

Charlie Daniels Band

In America; Blue Skies
Epic- 9-50888, stereo 45, recorded 1979.

Charlie Daniels

Now 81, Charlie Daniels and his band have carved out a significant niche in what could best be described as country rock, tinged with blues. He formed the group in 1955, shortly after high school graduation, but it didn’t hit pay dirt until the mid-’70s, later escalating in 1979 with The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

In America was a patriotic reaction to the Iran hostage crisis and a good example of the six member group’s thoroughly drilled ensemble. Still, for my money, the B side, Blue Star, is an even stronger number in musical content and precision teamwork. Yet it is not listed in the otherwise thorough discography of the band on Wiki, despite the band’s success since 1979,

Daniels’s health has suffered at various times – from an arm severely broken in three places by a spinning auger, prostate cancer, pneumonia, a stroke and the installation of a pacemaker. In 2011, tragedy struck when the band’s longtime keyboardist, Taz DiGregorio, died in an automobile accident at 67.

But Daniels stays busy touring and has been honored for his musical contributions by official membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Bellini

Sonnambula- Ah! Non Credea Mirarti (Could I Believe), from Act 3
Alma Gluck, soprano, with Walter B. Rogers conducting; Victrola-74263, acoustic 12-inch 78, recorded 1911.

Vincenzo Bellini

Although I do have several operas of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) on my shelves, I have not ever connected with them on the deepest level, as I have with ones by Rossini, Donizetti, Ponchielli, Verdi and Puccini – these being the most representative composers/geniuses in the Italian tradition. This disc of the great Alma Gluck (1884-1938) may change my attitude.

First, some context on the opera – it was a hit from the beginning and, inevitably, been used as a vehicle for singers with high notes of steel and beauty; the most famous interpreters are probably Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, whose recordings are readily available.

The aria is most often referred to as the Sleepwalking Scene in which the heartbroken heroine is, naturally, walking in a deep sleep along a precipice. There are exquisite, separate obliggatos for the oboe and cello in which they blend with the singer. Some good news – the lady does not jump or fall, except in her lover’s arms and happily ever after.

For sheer beauty of phrasing and sustained line, Gluck rose so eloquently to the occasion. Her other Victor records, no matter whether opera arias or hymns, were consistently enjoyable. A shellac from the mid 1900s of Carry Me Back to Old Virginny was the first record by a classical artist to sell a million copies!

Finally, she was the mom of actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

 
 

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