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Valerie Capers: Wagner Takes the “A” Train

Pre-dating even Paul Whiteman’s tepid efforts to “make a lady of jazz,” the classical tradition has held its attractions for jazz players-many of whom have been, after all, accomplished in the European concert tradition. Direct appropriation from that tradition stems perhaps from Jelly Roll Morton’s quotation of the Chopin funeral march, to Ellington’s recastings of Tchaikovsky and Grieg. The range of classical influence is represented in some measure in these recordings. In the title track from her new CD, pianist Valerie Capers plays on the chromatic suggestions of the Strayhorn classic in interpolating no less than 29 motifs from Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”; the result is interesting, but doesn’t make a particularly strong impression. More successful is “Winter’s Love,” a bossa nova arrangement of love arias from “Die Walkure”-and, for that matter, the rest of the session, which includes a rousing reading of Parker’s “Confirmation.” Capers is abetted by John Robinson, bass; Earl Williams, drums; Alan Givens, reeds; and Mark Marino, guitar.

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