COMPOSERS: Barber,Gershwin,Ozone,Ravel,Scarlatti
LABELS: Concord Jazz
ALBUM TITLE: Gary Burton & Mokoto Ozone
PERFORMER: Gary Burton (vib), Makoto Ozone (p)


Virtuosi is an extraordinarily dynamic and enjoyable album, conveying as it does a process of delighted discovery. Jazz virtuosi Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone have been collaborating for 18 years and they decided to check out ‘the vast possibilities of classical music’, as Burton explains in his voluminous and fascinating booklet notes. They decided to play classical duets with jazz improvisations and began with the Prelude from Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin.

First they played the piece as written and then, finding that Ravel’s harmonies were very similar to contemporary jazz harmony, improvised on his chord structure with dazzling results. On this new disc they perform ten classical pieces in this manner, plus Ozone’s own ‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue’. Samuel Barber’s early piano pieces were influenced by jazz and his Op. 20 Excursions has a poetic jazz-like bass-line that inspires much subtle lyricism from the two virtuosi.

A Scarlatti sonata is given a light and joyous performance, while the third movement of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F is given a stunning account with dramatic stop choruses. This thrilling album perhaps heralds a new rapprochement between the two musical genres, one which composer Mark-Anthony Turnage is spearheading from the classical side. The band Just East of Jazz was formed in 1993 by Jeremy Shoham, who wanted to explore his Jewish musical roots by fusing jazz and klezmer.

The combination of jazz and swirling Eastern melodies and rhythms has given the band its own unique sound and emotional range. Feast is the group’s immensely assured third album, consisting of ten very varied compositions. Shoham’s ‘Eastbound’ begins with a flourish on the strings of the piano and includes intense oriental melodies, strong soprano and electric piano solos followed by a bravura finale.


By contrast, Shoham’s ‘Requiem à Tanier’ is played by piano and rhythm section only with sober eloquence. Other high spots are Angilley’s ‘Fatour’, with its folky and funky asymmetry, and Scragg’s ‘Mud Pie’, with its bass riff and accordion. This is a veritable feast of music.