Play List #2 – Concierto de Aranjuez

 The Concerto de Aranjuez is a concerto for Classical Guitar and Orchestra that was composed in Paris in 1939 by the Spanish composer  Joaquin Rodrigo. It is one of the few modern classical compositions to achieve widespread recognition and popularity. Just about every significant Classical Guitarist of the past fifty years has performed and recorded the piece. Although it is a three movement composition (Allegro con spirito, Adagio and Allegro gentile) it is the second movement with its slow pace, quiet melody and the interplay between the Guitar, Orchestra, Cor Anglias, Oboe and Bassoon that is the most recognized. Since its premier performance in 1940 the second movement has been re-interpreted in a number of non-classical context. The most famous non-classical interpretation is the 1960 Gil Evans / Miles Davis collaboration for the album Sketches of Spain. Over recent years the second movement has had many interpretation from the world of Rock, Jazz (including the Modern Jazz Quartet), Bluegrass (David Grisman Quintet) and Flamenco (Paco de Lucia). It has even been incorporated into film scores (the Grimthorpe Colliery Band in the movie Brassed Off). For me one of the most successful versions of the second movement is by the Jazz Guitarist Jim Hall. Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at his studios in 1975 it featured three of the most lyrical jazz soloists of that era; Jim Hall on electric guitar, Chet Baker on Trumpet and Paul Desmond on Alto sax. The recording also featured the peerless rhythmic section of Roland Hanna on piano, Ron Carter on Bass and Steve Gadd on drums. Here is an audio YouTube clip.

The piece opens with a pizzicato bass tremolo followed by Jim Hall’s lyrical statement of the theme. Each of the soloists has ample opportunity to do justice to the magnificent melody before the rhythm section kicks in and they explore improvisational possibilities. Chet Baker’s initial statement of the theme confirms the Miles Davis comment: “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets.” Chet Baker outdoes Miles Davis on this one. Not as well known as Miles, Chet Baker has been a Jazz icon since his early days with the ground breaking Gerry Mulligan Quartet way back in the fifties. Afflicted with a notorious heroin habit he survived many ups and down in his career including a brutal beating by drug thugs who broke all his teeth. This almost destroyed his career and his life. With incredible fortitude he rebuilt his embouchure and technique from scratch. His popularity underwent a resurgence in the 1980’s until his final demise at the hands of drug dealers. He was thrown out of an apartment window in Paris. He died May 13, 1988. Paul Desmond is best known for his contributions to the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the composition Take Five. This was pretty close to his last recording. He was in the final stages of Lung Cancer when he recorded this and he died shortly after in May 30, 1977. Despite his failing health this is an incredible chapter in a remarkable career. Jim Hall was unique in the music industry. Not only was he one of the premier Jazz Guitarists of his generation he was a very stable individual. No abuse problems; no personality problems; married to the same woman all his adult life. If one did no know of his accomplishments one would think he led a very unremarkable life. As this recording testifies that was far from the case. Jim died quietly last year still working and innovating right up to his death. One could write volumes about the rhythm section but the drummer Steve Gadd deserves special mention. Although I have been aware of his reputation for many years this is the first time I have heard him on record. When he enters the sonic landscape of this recording his subtle percussion lifts the recording to a whole new level.

Although this recording was originally released under Jim Hall’s name the release I have been listening to is Together – Chet Baker and Paul Desmond – The Complete Studio Recordings on an EPIC CD 472984 2. I highly recommend the recording for all the tracks that it contains.

A very significant after thought: Although there are many recordings of this composition by many prominent Classical Guitarists the one that has drawn special commendation by none other than the composer himself is the 1991 version by the Flamenco Guitarist Paco de Lucia. Check the YouTube version from the documentary Paco de Lucía-Light and Shade: A Portrait.



The Next Canadian Celtic Super Group – Coig

We all know the names; Spirit of the West, Ryan’s Fancy, Great Big Sea, The Rankins, Leahy and The Barra MacNeils. These are just some of the names that have become familiar over the years. Spirit of the West came out of Vancouver and were more Rock than Celtic;  Ryan’s Fancy, a group of transplanted Irishmen living in Newfoundland; Great Big sea was a Pop/Rock/Celtic band from Newfoundland who dominated the Maritime music scene for more years than one could dare or care to count; Similarly, The Rankins with their signature vocals also had a grip on the scene for many years; Leahy and the Barra MacNeils  have always had a significant niche in the Maritime Celtic scene. With the exception of Ryan’s Fancy all of these bands have performed in Cranbrook. Although they haven’t performed in Cranbrook (yet) I think we can safely add Coig to list. Their website ( ) describes them as  “Còig ( “Ko-ig”. Scottish Gaelic for ‘five’) as an electrifying line-up of 5 solo acts. Originally formed as a promotional band for the Celtic Colours International Festival, these five award winning performers decided to continue to play as the Còig ensemble whenever possible!

WINNER of the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year
WINNER of the 2014 Music Nova Scotia Award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year.
The band consists of Colin Grant – fiddle; Darren McMullen – guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, whistles, vocals; Rachel Davis – fiddle, vocals; Chrissy Crowley – fiddle and Jason Roach – piano

Fiddler Chrissy Crowley, from Margaree, Cape Breton has an impressive list of awards, nominations, and international appearances. Chrissy embraces her Celtic roots and makes them her own, through original compositions coupled with contemporary arrangements of traditional tunes.

Darren McMullen, from Hardwood Lands, NS, is a highly sought after multi-instrumentalist. Easily switching between guitar, mandolin, whistle and banjo with Còig, this “Swiss-army knife” keeps the rhythm sound diverse, and is sure to impress with his lead playing of his various “on-stage weapons”.

Rachel Davis from Baddeck, Cape Breton spends her time switching from international festival stages to small local dances at home. In a genre that sees many performers pushing the envelope and testing new waters, her style of playing traditional tunes in a traditional way is a refreshing reminder of why the Cape Breton fiddle style drives so hard, and is so sought after.

Colin Grant from Sydney, Cape Breton has been touring steadily as a solo performer, as well as with Sprag Session. His respect for traditional style, combined with his drive to take the Celtic fiddle to new places results in an exciting sound that is as much Buddy MacMaster as it is Ashley MacIsaac

Jason Roach, from Chéticamp, Cape Breton is one of the most impressive piano players you will ever hear. With a style all his own, and an unparalleled intensity on the keys, you’ll have to remind yourself that there’s other players on the stage.

With a combined total of over 30 nominations and awards, each of Còig’s talented musicians have released their own successful solo albums, and have toured both at home and abroad before coming together as this exciting super group. Their much anticipated debut album “Five” was released in June, 2014 to rave reviews, and has earned the band the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year, and the Music Nova Scotia award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year”.

The band is a little different from Canadian Celtic bands of recent years. Coig is essentially an instrumental band of musicians steeped in the instrumental traditions of Cape Breton. Their does not seem to be any attempt or intent at crossing over into the Pop/Celtic mainstream. Here is a taste of Coig, and remember that in Cranbrook you heard it here first.

I would like to thank Angus MacDonald for bringing these sounds back to us from his recent visit to Prince Edward Island.