Good Music, Good Friday

For this Good Friday, here is a 15-minute reflection on what serious music is, courtesy of Roger Scruton and the BBC. Don’t miss it; his thoughts on Bach are wonderful, and his remarks on Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are highly pertinent for today’s holiday. Progarchy is happy to disseminate this broadcast, since we are passionately devoted to all Good music.

Build a Classical Library Without Going Broke


If you were considering taking the plunge into classical music but were wary of the cost, you no longer have an excuse. The Bach Guild is releasing excellent collections of classical music on Amazon at incredibly low prices. For example, you can get more than 33 hours of very fine performances of baroque music for less than $3.00. Yes, that’s right – less than 3 bucks!

Unlike iTunes tracks, these are DRM-free mp3’s. You can stream them off the cloud, download them to listen to on any mp3 player, or burn them to CD.

The Big Baroque Box, Vol. 1 features the music of Vivaldi, Dowland, Torelli, Bach and many others. 305 tracks for $.99.

The Big Baroque Box, Vol. 2 is more of a “Baroque Greatest Hits”, with Handel, Albinoni, Pachelbel, Bach, etc. 214 tracks for a whopping $.99.

The Big Baroque Box, Vol. 3 continues high quality performances of interesting selections of Rameau, Gluck, Purcell, Vivaldi, etc. 129 tracks for – you guessed it – $.99.

The Bach Guild has also released huge collections devoted to individual composers, including Bach (surprise!), Handel, Vivaldi, Haydn, Purcell, Mozart, and Beethoven, among many others. Even if you decide that a particular composer isn’t your cup of tea, you aren’t out a large investment. Take the plunge!

Hiromi’s “Alive”: Jazz for Progarchists!

The petite, dynamic, big-haired bundle of mesmerizing musical energy named Hiromi Uehara (official website) recently released her ninth solo album in eleven years. Titled “Alive” (Concord Music Group, 2014), it is arguably her most overtly jazz album. Yet it also contains plenty of fusion, rock, and, yes, prog influences, as have her previous releases, which are marked by an instantly recognizable combination of breathtaking technique, astounding precision and speed, complex time changes, and boundless, mind-boggling virtuosity. I’ve been following her career since her debut album, “Another Mind” (2003), and have been both amazed and enriched by her music.hiromi_alive

However, one of the criticisms leveled against Hiromi, by some inside and outside the jazz world, is that her prodigious technical abilities tend to overshadow—or even overwhelm—other qualities, including nuance, emotion, and interpretive insight and dialogue. I think there is some merit to those criticisms, but I take them with a grain of salt. Frankly, the Argument From Lack of Emotion is, at best, quite subjective. Some people simply don’t like, or cannot handle, a cascade of notes (and last time I looked, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson are both, rightly, hailed as jazz greats; and Hiromi loves Peterson’s music). Plus, I think many such critics miss the apparent fact that Hiromi, while clearly working within the broad realm of jazz, is also very much a prog-rocker in her heart of hearts—as well as a player of funk, soul, R&B, metal, electronica and, well, you get the idea. And all of us here at know how often prog rock is criticized for having an abundance of technique but a lack of emotion resonance, a criticism that almost alway tells me much more about the critic than it does the music.

Hiromi’s acknowledged influences include the obvious—Ahmad Jamal (a mentor, and a jazz giant), Chick Corea (they recorded a duet album), Bach and Franz Liszt (the classical influences are often front and center)—and the not so obvious, at least to many listeners: Dream Theater, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, and Robert Fripp. The short bio on site states, “Her style brings a wholly new approach to jazz fusion, as her prog influence is derived primarily from such artists as King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa rather than earlier jazz fusion artists. Her music is almost orchestral in scope, and each of the musicians she plays with has a virtuosic grasp of their instrument, allowing for each instrumentalist to have an approximately equal role in the direction of the music. Her music is more melodious than traditional jazz fusion but with an equally complex sense of rhythm. Time signature changes are not in short supply here.” It’s impossible for a prog rock lover to hear, say, “Return of the Kung-Fu Champion” (from her second album, “Brain”), and not hear a lot of prog influences in the mix:

Continue reading “Hiromi’s “Alive”: Jazz for Progarchists!”