My Favorite Things: Selections from West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera and The Sound of Music. Carolina Brass (Timothy Hudson, trumpet, Dennis De Jong, trumpet, Bob Campbell, horn, David Wulfeck, trombone, Matt Ransom, tuba, John R. Beck, percussion). Summit Records DCD 507, $19.95: Arrangements of selections from three Broadway shows, 27 tracks, 50 minutes, recorded at Front Street United Methodist Church, Burlington, NC. Carolina Brass, PO Box 77025, Greensboro, NC 27417-7025,
The most recent project from Carolina Brass, My Favorite Things, features music from the Broadway shows West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Sound of Music. No doubt these soundtracks are embedded in the memory of anyone likely to attend a Carolina Brass concert, so this CD is sure to be a favorite selection at the table in the back.
Leonard Bernstein's brilliant West Side Story rhythms, melodies, and harmonies are ably translated to quintet by Jack Gale, the arranger of most of the music on this recording. Two of the tracks are particularly outstanding, the first for technical display, the second for artistic interpretation: "Mambo" is a wild ride, relentless and driving from beginning to end, and "Somewhere," which closes the set, is achingly beautiful and merits being played again and again.
The music of Phantom inherently lacks the sophisticated counterpoint of Bernstein and the lyrical craftsmanship of Richard Rodgers' The Sound of Music. So while Gale's arrangements call to mind the powerful story and the quintet performs impeccably, the musical content is less compelling than the CD's bookends. Heard in the concert setting, however, one expects that the element of the familiar and the artistry of the ensemble win the day.
A "Preludium" of church music from The Sound of Music, arranged by David Wulfeck, precedes Gale's fine arrangement of nine songs from the show. The medley is in turn lovely, playful, and stirring, a listening pleasure from beginning to end.
The one shortcoming of this CD is the recording venue, the Front Street United Methodist Church of Burlington, North Carolina, a space that favors the bright colors of the trumpets. The timbre of the horn and tuba tend to be muted, and the horn themes do not soar over the group as they surely do in live performance. In some instances the trumpet tone prompts a lowering of the volume to the detriment of the other parts. The group would be better served by recording in a studio capable of capturing in a more equitable manner the group's full spectrum of sound.
In short, this CD is a delight, a highly artistic project of which the Carolina Brass can be justifiably proud. The insert includes program notes, a picture of the group, their discography, and just enough white space for the purchaser to get an autograph or two. Without doubt concert-goers will gladly buy copies on their way out the door, hurriedly slip off the cellophane, and pop the disc in their cars as they head home, happily listening to a few of their favorite things.