Everything on this superbly played recital of modern music for clarinet and piano by four American composers is flavored, whether openly or more subliminally, by that most American musical invention, jazz. Gershwin’s catchy Three Preludes (originally for solo piano) and razzle- dazzle “I Got Rhythm,” from Girl Crazy, are unmistakable products of the Jazz Age. Leonard Bernstein’s early Clarinet Sonata—his first published composition—is less overtly jazz- influenced, but still thoroughly American in its rhythmic flair and optimism.
The other two works on the program were written for the performers. Pianist/ composer John Novacek (born 1964) contributes Four Rags for Two Jons. These pieces channel the energy and syncopated lilt of Scott Joplin, tinted by Novacek’s unique inflections—“slightly bent harmonies and cross-rhythms” is how the liner notes put it. The Cape Cod Files, by Cuban-born clarinet and saxophone virtuoso Paquito D’Rivera, comprises four movements that effectively tap into the blues, boogie-woogie, and several strains of Latin music.
The recording of the clarinet is very close-up, exaggerating its size, and there’s a slight excess of midrange warmth. But with performances as good as these, you won’t object.