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Quiet City

Quiet City

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On the rest of the album, I’m using my Bach C trumpet, which I love, and it was just very straightforward. Especially for the Gershwin, I find it a really virtuosic, peaceful instrument that I love. It just works for me, and it’s a great tool. But I did use thousands of mutes!

Bernstein: On the Town – Lonely Town. Pas de deux; Copland: Quiet City; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Wright); Ives: The Unanswered Question; Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (arr. G Evans); Weill: My Ship (arr. G Evans)

Alison Balsom commented, “This album has been an utter joy to make. I loved every minute of the sessions with the brilliant Britten Sinfonia, conductor Scott Stroman, oboist and cor anglais player Nicholas Daniel and my great friend and collaborator pianist Tom Poster. The concept of this project began decades ago, when I decided that Copland’s Quiet City was a work that everyone needed to hear – especially so as Copland reveals the scene so brilliantly via the solo trumpet and cor. There is a true melancholy in this work that only a certain type of trumpet playing can achieve, and across the collection on the album I’ve tried to show that through the unique lens of the trumpet, the wonderful bridge and mutual respect between the classical composers and arrangers, and the jazz greats can be seen. For many of us, the sentiment behind Quiet Cityis pertinent at the moment, as we emerge from the loneliness of the pandemic and into another chapter of darkness in today’ s turbulent world. It reminds me of the thing we all talk about as musicians; we instinctively know how important music is in one’s life. You don’t have to become a professional musician for music to be really important and make life worth living. I don’t think, as humans, we fully understand the benefits of music. We know that there are so many benefits of music, but we don’t fully understand how to apply all of those benefits to the rest of our lives yet. Some of us do, but it’s certainly not part of any government policy! And yet we know it’s a fact. One thing that keeps returning to my mind is that music is like a concept that takes over one’s language when words have run out; when we don’t have any other way of expressing ourselves. Music is almost the next highest step onwards. And I think this is what this piece means to me, more than any other. Music is as good a way as any to explain the universe, and I think this piece is a brilliant encapsulation of that. This slight misfire aside, there is much to enjoy, not least the arrangements Gil Evans made for Miles Davis of Kurt Weill’s My Shipand, more extensively, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Written for Davis’s Sketches of Spain album, the wonderfully sultry take on the Concierto was the starting point for Balsom’s project. Revisiting the improvisatory practice of jazz icons with highly idiosyncratic techniques can fall flat, but Balsom and the Britten Sinfonia make it work. They are entirely idiomatic and wonderfully engaging, both here and in their other sketches of America. Balsom and the Britten Sinfonia regrouped at the Barbican’s Milton Court concert hall in September 2021 to reprise Sketches of Spain. They also placed Copland’s Quiet City in company with Simon Wright’s anything-but-quiet arrangement of the original jazz band version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Warner Classics recorded the concert live and convened subsequent sessions to catch Ives’ The Unanswered Question, the Lonely Town “Pas de deux” from Bernstein’s On the Town, and another Gil Evans gem, “My Ship” from Kurt Weill’s 1941 Broadway musical, Lady in the Dark.

I feel that we all know that Miles Davis was such a legend and iconic musician who almost found another side and character to the trumpet. I felt that it deserved exploring as though he were the composer. I was looking for ways to bring those two worlds together.The album will also feature Balsom’s newly edited version of Bernstein’s Lonely Town from his 1944 musical On the Town, depicting a visitor’s bewilderment and loneliness despite being in the crowds of New York City. This is followed by Ives’ extraordinary, ethereal and pioneering 1908 work The Unanswered Question for solo trumpet, flute quartet and strings, asking the “Eternal question of existence”. License for institutional access: The International Journal of Music does not issue or require the agreement of a formal license for institutional access to its content. Instead, it has chosen to adopt a cooperative and collaborative approach as exemplified by the SERU (Shared E-Resource Understanding) approach to e-resource subscriptions. This approach recognizes that the provision of timely, high-quality materials and their protection is in the mutual interests of all parties and offers savings in time and cost by enabling access within a framework of shared understanding and good faith. But perhaps most poignantly for Alison Balsom, Aaron Copland's Quiet City is a work that she has cherished since she was a young woman. Balsom tells Russell how when she first heard this work at the age of 17, it completely changed her life. You just signed a five-album deal with Warner. The first one, Quiet City, explores American music from the 20th century and will be released on August 26th. You recorded Copland’s Quiet City, a newly edited version of Bernstein’s Lonely Town from On the Town, Ives’s Unanswered Question, a brand-new orchestral arrangement from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and two works by the iconic Miles Davis/Gil Evans partnership, Concierto de Aranjuez and My Ship. Alison Balsom’s new album Quiet City will be released worldwide on Warner Classics on 26 August 2022

Think of the trumpet as brash? Think of America the same way? Alison Balsom’s new recording belies both impressions. Taking its title from Copland’s Quiet City, the prevailing sense in this American musical journey is of contemplation in the early hours. More than ably partnered by the Britten Sinfonia under Scott Stroman, Balsom is mesmerisingly plaintive in the Copland, matched by Nicholas Daniel’s elegiac cor anglais. Balsom is equally adroit capturing the down-at-heel soulfulness of Bernstein’s Lonely Town and the existential transcendence of Ives’s The Unanswered Question. British trumpeter Alison Balsom joins Russell Torrance to talk about what it was like to record her new album Quiet City (out Friday 26th August). Quiet City germinated from seeds planted in 2017, when the trumpeter accepted an invitation from the Britten Sinfonia to take part in the Sound Unbound festival at London’s Barbican Centre. “They asked me to perform the first part of Sketches of Spain, Gil Evans’ arrangement for Miles Davis of the “Adagio” from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez,” she recalls. “I wasn’t sure I was the right person for it—I thought they should probably be asking a jazz musician. But when I looked at the score, I saw it had been created like a classical piece. It was an opportunity to say, ‘OK, if you’re asking me to do this, I’ll give it my best shot.’” Use of the IJM content by those entitled to access by their relationship with a participating institution should read the terms of use for individuals.But one of the other reasons that album came about was because I was invited to play at the Barbican in London a few years ago with the Britten Sinfonia, and they asked me to play the Concierto de Aranjuez, Miles Davies and Gil Evans’ version of Rodrigo’s Sketches of Spain. I wasn’t sure if I was the right person for it, being a classical trumpet player, and I didn’t know if it would sound right with an orchestra. But in fact, it turned out that the Britten Sinfonia are a very flexible ensemble and not really defined by genre. They have some of the best non-classical musicians in London who also play in bands, who play classical, jazz and many other styles. When I went and participated in this concert, I was mesmerised by their playing. It didn’t sound pastiche or like a copy of Gil Evans’ recording — it sounded really like what Gil Evans would have wanted. It really had that sound, rather than a classical version of that sound. So I was very inspired by that. Lastly, I want to give a big shout-out to the trumpet section, who are experts in a lot of this music and have really thought about it all their lives. They played so incredibly, and they really inspired me on the sessions.

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