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Nils Landgren With Janis Siegel: Some Other Time: A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein

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"Befitting Bernstein's unpretentious genius, a tasteful and elegant" tribute: Nils Landgren (right) and Janis Siegel

It is a rather perfect storm: a sterling quartet led by Swedish trombonist and vocalist Nils Landgren, paired with the 17-piece Bochumer Symphoniker across a dozen Leonard Bernstein gems, arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza, augmented with guest vocals by the Manhattan Transfer’s Janis Siegel. But it is also, befitting Bernstein’s unpretentious genius, a tasteful and elegant one. Landgren begins and ends grandly, opening with a 42-second snippet from West Side Story‘s “America,” a multi-track trombone solo that suggests a glorious dawn over Manhattan, and closing with a majestic rendering of “A Simple Song” from Bernstein’s MASS: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers, commissioned by Jacqueline Onassis for the 1971 opening of Washington’s Kennedy Center.

Like many a singing horn player, Landgren makes up for a limited vocal range with tremendous rhythmic verve and style, in his case blending the gossamer of Chet Baker with the gruff bonhomie of Jack Sheldon. He contributes fine readings of “Somewhere,” Wonderful Town‘s velvety “A Quiet Girl” and, alone with the quartet, the pressure-cooker “Cool.” Siegel fronts the orchestra just once, on Wonderful Town‘s bittersweet “The Story of My Life.” With the quartet she adds a beautifully etched “Lonely Town” and, just with Landgren (on trombone and piano), a gently blissful “Lucky to Be Me.” Vocally they partner twice, on the wistful title track, written by Bernstein for On the Town, and on “Something’s Coming,” taken at midtempo, less feverishly than most interpretations, its anticipatory yearning more wishful than commanding.

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