Without Limits-An American Century of Music for Guitar explores the guitar’s pre-eminent role in America’s cultural life through a number of contemporary genres that cross the boundaries between classical and popular music.
This album includes many premiere recordings, including William Lovelady’s arrangements of works from the ‘Great American Songbook’, Bryan Johanson’s inventive Magic Serenade and two exciting new arrangements of works by Thelonious Monk, which were commissioned from Jonathan Keren to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his untimely death.
Lullaby of Birdland
Lullaby of Birdland, composed in 1952 with lyrics by George David Weiss, pays homage to Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and the referentially named Birdland Jazz Club.
Born in London, Shearing began to play the piano as a young child before starting formal studies at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind. In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his unique musical style, fusing elements of bop, swing and contemporary classical genres, gained respect and popular acclaim. He credited the Glen Miller Orchestra reed section as an important musical influence on Lullaby of Birdland, his most celebrated work.
This arrangement, which introduces itself with the energy and dissonance of a Manhattan street scene, is based on a performance by the celebrated jazz pianist and composer, Erroll Garner (1923-1977). Garner’s unique interpretation demonstrates his orchestrally approached virtuoso talents, mixing swing playing with the innovations of bop.
Darn That Dream
Darn That Dream was introduced in the Broadway musical Swinging the Dream (1939). This collaboration between Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist and band-leader Eddy De Lange is an innovative popular song featuring lush orchestration and daringly chromatic harmony.
My Romance, a collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, was composed for the Broadway musical Jumbo (1935). My Romance conveys an intimate portrait of love and has become a frequently recorded and arranged standard of the Great American Songbook.
Like Someone in Love
Like Someone in Love, a collaboration between Van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Burke, was composed for the film Belle of the Yukon (1944). Numerous singers, including Bing Crosby, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and more recently Bjork, have recorded performances that demonstrate the song’s universal appeal and intimate expressiveness.
The lyrics describe a shunned lover who dreams that his lost love will one day return his affections. The song quickly became a standard, with interpretations by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman and Thelonious Monk.
Evidence (1948), was given various names, including Just Us, Justice and We Named it Justice before Monk decided upon Evidence. The song makes reference to the Greer/Klages standard Just You, Just Me in both title and content.
The tonally oblique introduction demonstrates Monk’s rhythmically-conceived melodic expression. In fact, rhythm represents a more important musical element in this work than either melody or harmony. Unusually, Monk adds variation to the recapitulation of the exposition of Evidence through the use of re-orchestration, re-voicing and the superimposition of previously stated material.
Monk’s Mood, one of Monk’s early ballads, was first recorded in 1947. Monk gave the piece several titles; That’s the Way I Feel Now, Feeling That Way Now, Why Do You Evade the Facts and Be Merrier Sarah before deciding upon Monk’s Mood. The Dutch singer Soesja Citroen added lyrics to an arrangement which was recorded as Underneath This Cover (1983).
The introspective melody is often treated to startling hesitations and radical, dissonant chordal accompaniment. Monk uses silence as an integral melodic and rhythmic element. Arpeggiated chords, using a range of qualities, contrast with scalar elements and unusually function as melodic phrase endings.
Both Monk arrangements, commissioned from the composer Jonathan Keren to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the composer’s untimely death, masterfully use a broad tonal palette and extended techniques to convey Monk’s vibrant instrumental ensembles.
Appalachian Dreams was arranged by the English composer John Duarte and first performed by Sharon Isbin (1999). Sharon Isbin collected many of the arranged melodies from renowned Appalachian musicians, including Robin Kessinger, while she was performing on tour in West Virginia.
Fantasia, is based upon three melodies: Katy Cruel, Shady Grove and The Foggy, Foggy Dew.
Katy Cruel is most likely based on the Scottish song Licht Bob’s Lassie. The American lyrics, likely dating from the Revolutionary War, portray a story of personal regret. Karen Dalton created perhaps the best known recording of this work which has been interpreted by a variety of artists, including Jerry Garcia, and also Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in an adapted ballad called When I First Came to Town.
Shady Grove was a popular eighteenth-century American folk song, likely based on the English ballad Matty Groves. The text describes the narrator’s travels and love for a woman named Shady Grove.
The Foggy, Foggy Dew is a sorrowful English ballad describing the relationship between the narrator and his fair young maid. After months of wooing she finally accepts his advances in fear of the ‘foggy, foggy dew’. There are many versions of this song with an extant broadside published in 1815. The melody is likely an eighteenth-century reworking of the Restoration era song, When I First Came to Court. The lyrics, often bawdy, have led the work to be censored in contemporary live and recorded performance.
Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair first came to prominence in the Appalachian region of the United States. The lyrics demonstrate a Scottish origin with two distinct melodies emerging, one traditional and the other composed by John Jacob Niles. Duarte employs the Niles melody, replete with modal ambiguity, in this arrangement.
This genre-crossing standard has inspired an eclectic range of interpretations, including Celtic folk, the avant-garde of Luciano Berio and the haunting contralto of Nina Simone.
Putney Hymn derives from the town of Putney in Vermont. Occasionally, religious leaders would compose works for their congregations, applying the parish name to the melody. Duarte arranged this melody in the style of a Bach chorale.
Darling Cora describes the narrator’s love for and eventual betrayal by a tough, moonshine-loving woman. Similar in theme and lyrics, though not melody, to Little Maggie and The Gambling Man the song was first recorded by Clarence Gill (1927).
Numerous musicians have recorded this song, including B.F. Shelton as part of his seminal Bristol Sessions (1927), the Monroe Brothers (1936), Burl Ives (1941), Kingston Trio (1959) as Corey, Corey, and Henry Bellafonte (1959). Darling Cora became a staple of the 1940s folk music revival thanks in part to the efforts of singer Pete Seeger.
Andecy, written by California-based composer and guitarist Andrew York, musically portrays a small village in the Champagne district of France. Elements of folk guitar playing and harp-like melodic phrases combine to create a hypnotic rhythmic groove.
Missing Her, inspired by the musical creations of Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, stylistically marries classical and jazz performance styles. This piece, initially conceived as a work for guitar and small ensemble, features expansive harmonies and sections of free improvisation. Frederic Hand’s career includes extensive performance work as a soloist and with his ensemble Jazzantiqua.
Putative Prelude, Shameless Sarabande & Crooked Courante
The celebrated composer Paul Lansky is a leading exponent of algorithmic composition and the development of computer-based musical expression. Recently, his focus has shifted to the composition of acoustic instrumental music. This suite, of which Putative Prelude, Shameless Sarabande and Crooked Courante are presented, demonstrates the influence of popular music genres, specifically folk and bluegrass. Like Bach, who used folk dances as inspiration for his instrumental works, Lansky uses the popular styles of today to inspire a uniquely creative suite.
Lansky’s musical education began with the classical guitar and the instrument continues to inspire his compositional output. The guitar, according to the composer, represents the purest instrumental voice of popular music and has helped to shape numerous twentieth-century styles.
This work structurally explores the guitar’s timbal potential with frequent variation in the dynamic and tonal palette. Hierarchal melodies do not dominate Semi-Suite; rather, there are numerous and shifting points of musical interest, giving, as the composer succinctly explains, ‘your ears room to dance’.
Magic Serenade (2005) by Bryan Johanson employs the common capo at position seven to create an inventively textured sonic journey. Unique colours are created with Johanson employing harmonics with simultaneous left-hand pizzicato produced behind the capo.
Johanson’s compositional inspiration derives from eclectic sources, including the poets Beckett and Sappho, medieval physiology and ancient Roman history. Magic Serenade communicates the landscapes and characteristics of his native Oregon in the American Pacific Northwest. Johanson, the Chair of the Music Department at Portland State University, is a prominent guitarist and recording artist who frequently performs as a solo recitalist and chamber musician.
Here's That Rainy Day
Here’s That Rainy Day ends the disc with an arrangement influenced by the impressionistic and improvisatory style of the Catalan composer Federico Mompou. The use of an open scordatura enables William Lovelady to employ subtle portamenti and dissonance as the works fades towards a bittersweet and unresolved ending.
This work has been a favourite of jazz singers and instrumentalists since its first performance with singer Dolores Gray in the Broadway musical Carnival in Flanders (1953).