Musical Beauty

“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” That’s a quote from Franz Kafka, of all people, and it seemed like an apt line to accompany a CD I recorded for a few friends this holiday season, a gathering of some of the most beautiful recordings ever made, in my opinion.

On the CD were several jazz classics: The Duke Ellington-John Coltrane recording of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” a Kenny Burrell rendition of Billy Strayhorn‘s “Lotus Blossom,” the Mingus tribute to Lester Young, “Goodbye, Porkpie Hat,” a Cannonball Adderley version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye,” a Walter Davis solo recording of Monk’s “Pannonica.”

Here’s an excellent rendition of “Goodbye” performed by a recent incarnation of The Four Freshmen (whose members look like they could be freshmen). I didn’t have an audio recording to put on the CD.

I didn’t put a few of my classical favorites on the CD due to length (Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Vaughan-Williams’ A Lark Ascending). But I included a Joshua Bell recording of Dvorak’s “Rusalka” and a recording of the 5th “Gnossiene” by Erik Satie. (A version played on clarinet is possibly my favorite beautiful recording ever, but I only have it on a scratchy old LP and it’s evidently out-of-print.) 

From the pop world, I included Rufus Wainwright‘s “Poses,” just one example of the exquisite songs this guy has written and sung. I also put in “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips, “De Cara a la Pared” by Lhasa de Sela, and the theme from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Jon Brion. And to round it out, I inserted the great Caetano Veloso’s live tribute to Fellini, “Gelsomina,” and a recent Boz Scaggs recording of the Landesman-Wolf classic, “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men.”

Not much at all in the way of vocal harmonies, but perhaps the next CD will be a collection of beautiful harmony music. One that I especially love is The Roches’ version of “On the Road to Fairfax County”–not as dynamic as “The Hammond Song,” but it gets the edge on sheer beauty. Here’s an irritatingly-filmed live clip, the camera panning back and forth, trying (and failing) to catch each sister as they trade off:

And, to close, a video by the “Mysterious Bulgarian Voices.” I will definitely include an example of their eerily beautiful harmonies next round.

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