Jazz or Classical or just Good Music?

April 15, 2015

Deanna Witkowski Raindrop (Tilapia 003)

The subtitle to this lovely album is deliberately explicit: Improvisations With Chopin. Explicit because Deanna Witkowski has sought in her improvisations to attune her mind to that of the composer of the original themes. Importantly, she has succeeded in her aims and the result is a thoroughly delightful recital of much-loved melodies that retain the composer’s romanticism while displaying the art of the presenter. The eight works of Frédéric Chopin, four preludes, three nocturnes, and one etude, will be familiar to many, and Witkowski clearly loves this music and is always respectful of its charm and beauty, staying close to the original themes while improvising upon them her own conceptions. The pianist has also long held a fascination with the music of Brazil and on three tracks she segues smoothly from Chopin to leading composers from that country’s grand tradition. The Prelude in E Minor Op. 28, No 4 blends into Insensatez, which Antonio Carlos Jobim based on Chopin’s piece, the Prelude in C Minor Op. 28, No. 20 transitions smoothly into Olha Maria, and the Nocturne in E Minor Op 72, No. 1 into Manhã De Carnaval. An American standard is similarly enjoined with Chopin as Witkowski develops the Etude in E-Flat Minor Op. 10, No. 6 into You And The Night And the Music. On the other four Chopin pieces here, the pianist stays with the great composer, building her own musical improvisation from the original. Among these is the Prelude in D-Flat Major Op. 28, No. 15, an especially haunting version of the work known as the ‛Raindrop’ Prelude. There are also six tracks of originals by Witkowski, all are short (four are less than two minutes) and are inspired by the master’s melodies and harmonic structure.deanna All of this music is beautiful to hear and is enhanced by the recording quality that brings to life an exceptional instrument. There may be those who remain uneasy at mixing jazz with classical music. This wholly admirable set should dispel any fears for the sanctity (real or imagined) of either one or the other form. Speaking of this release, Deanna Witkowski states that: “The whole idea of this project was to have the original Chopin pieces be the grounding for the arrangements – not to just add a specific rhythm and play the piece as a swing tune.” She achieves her intention and this release must surely appeal to open-mined aficionados of both jazz and classical music. Indeed, it might be recalled that Duke Ellington once remarked that there are two kinds of music, good and bad. This is definitely good.

This album is available from all good walk-in and on-line stores, the latter including Amazon.

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