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December 2000

Lee Ritenour/Dave Grusin
Two Worlds
Decca Records

Perennial jazz all-stars Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin reach new career highs with the classically oriented Two Worlds. Though neither artist is a stranger to the genre (particularly Grusin, who is equally renowned for film score compositions), this album represents a full immersion into often difficult waters. Both prove more than up to the challenge: They meticulously transcribe, arrange and execute such pieces as Bach's striking "Concerto in A Minor for Four Keyboards and Strings, BWV 1065, Movement 1"-a showcase of sweeping strings and beautiful piano runs-and Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos' "Aria (Cantilena)" from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, which finds Ritenour and Grusin dramatically surrounding the soaring vocals of operatic soprano Renee Fleming, for a heart-rending effect. Each arrangement fits the artists' dexterity and dynamic interpretive ability like a glove. Ritenour's light, chimelike classical touch takes on a lullaby quality next to Julian Lloyd Webber's cello on Bach's "Siciliana," for example. The album strays from traditional classical to include compositions like Ritenour's lithe, layered "Lagrima," and Grusin's haunting, meditative "Elegia (a Henri)," among others. But the centerpiece of this landmark album is a Grusin tour de force-a majestic arrangement of two American folk standards: "The Water is Wide" and "Shenandoah." Integrated in a unique medley as "River Songs," and given gorgeously detailed, aching reads by Renee Fleming, these pieces are tied together dramatically by Grusin's piano, and demonstrate in breathtaking fashion the timeless, historic significance of these native classics.

Originally published in December 2000
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