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The Modern American Music of Ferde Grofé

Ferde Grofé, Jan Stulen, Paul Whiteman & The Beau Hunks

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Album Review

The Beau Hunks are the foremost transcribers of eclectic jazz and classical music. They perform their expert arrangements on period instruments. The Modern American Music of Ferde Grofé is a grand-scale reproduction of the original compositions as written for Paul Whiteman's Dance Band. Grofé's music was called symphonic jazz (so was George Gershwin's). Grofé arranged his jazz compositions for symphonic performances. Those are the transcriptions that are most recognizable. (Most baby boomers will associate "On the Trail" from The Grand Canyon Suite with Elmer Fudd prospecting for gold as Bugs Bunny harasses him.) Sadly, this is a live recording and only "Cloudburst" from the suite was deemed fit for release. These symphonic jazz pieces are full of deep atmospheres and splendid humor. It is a great reminder of what a great orchestra can do with great material. The minimalism is absolutely ethereal as well. This CD, like all Beau Hunks CDs, is essential.

Customer Reviews

The Modern American Music of Ferde Grofe

Ferde Grofé's unique "symphonic jazz" pieces were written for Paul Whiteman's legendary dance band between 1924 and 1931. Grofé (b. 1892, New York) later re-scored most of these works for symphony orchestra. The original Whiteman versions hadn't been performed since the 1930s. Until now! Grofé joined Whiteman in 1917 as pianist, and remained with the bandleader for 15 years as pianist, assistant conductor, arranger, and librarian. He toured Europe with the Whiteman orchestra in 1923, and in 1924 had his first big break when he orchestrated Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a collaboration that brought immediate notice. Grofé then began composing original works, including his early tone-poem Broadway at Night. His works Metropolis, Blue Fantasy in E Flat, Mississippi Suite and Three Shades of Blue reflect his prescient development of the emerging symphonic jazz idiom. His life experiences and social observations inspired such compositions as Symphony in Steel, Tabloid Suite, Broadway at Night, Henry Ford, Knute Rockne, and Death Valley Suite. His best-known work is arguably The Grand Canyon Suite, long a worldwide standard in the symphonic repertoire. Using the original scores and parts from the Library of Congress and the Whiteman Archives at Williams College, Gert-Jan Blom reconstructed these works for the Holland-based Beau Hunks Orchestra (who had previously revived LeRoy Shield's film music for Hal Roach comedies). Using period instruments and overhead mikes, the 35-piece Beau Hunks, conducted by Jan Stulen, recreate the sound of the original live performances.

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