Music » Reverb

Steve Barta breathes fresh life into a classic


Album art for Barta's symphonic take on Claude Bolling’s genre-marrying Suite.
  • Album art for Barta's symphonic take on Claude Bolling’s genre-marrying Suite.

If you’ve accumulated a decent amount of music trivia in your brain, you probably know the album that spent the most charted weeks on the Billboard 200: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. And even if you didn’t know that, you could probably hazard an educated guess, right?

However, any guesses on the album with the second-most weeks on the chart? If you guessed Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio, congratulations; you’re absolutely correct!

Wait, what? Who?

Yes, it’s possible that French jazz pianist and composer Claude Bolling is the most successful artist you’ve never heard of. Bolling helmed a series of recordings in the ‘70s and ‘80s with an array of celebrated classical musicians for the Columbia and CBS Masterworks record labels, which led him to work with such luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma and Maurice André. In fact, when we talk about “crossover” records, Bolling was one of the very first to attempt — and, obviously, flourish —in such an undertaking.

However, Bolling’s very biggest hit came in 1975 with the aforementioned Suite, a collaboration with flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal that blended Baroque-period stylings and counterpoint with the looser cool of a jazz combo. The combination turned out to be a near-perfect showcase for the virtuosity inherent in both genres, and regardless of some critical snobbery upon its release, the public loved it... to the tune of the LP charting for 530 weeks, or roughly 10 years.

While the piece clearly had quite a few fans, one admirer happened to be pianist and composer Steve Barta, one of the most accomplished and formidable musical talents to grace Colorado Springs. In 2015, with Bolling’s approval, Barta unveiled his own large-ensemble rearrangement of the Suite, expanding its musical palette through the use of a jazz quartet, string quartet and orchestra.

Certainly a bold move, rearranging a work that is held dear by many, but Barta’s arrangement is one of clear love and incredible skill, and the results — committed to record with a group including master flutist Hubert Laws and pianist Jeffrey Biegel — received vociferous acclaim. Bolling himself called Barta’s work “a modern and true arrangement,” offering “a thousand bravos” for good measure.

This weekend, Nov. 9 and 10 at UCCS’ Ent Center for the Arts, locals can experience a live rendition of Barta’s handiwork and Bolling’s historic genre fusion courtesy of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, who will perform the Suite with Jeffrey Biegel on piano and Catherine Peterson on flute. The program also features a performance of George Gershwin’s much-loved Rhapsody in Blue, itself a sort of proto-crossover work of classical and jazz.

In fact, to briefly turn back to those sad, now-nameless purists who derided Bolling’s work in the ’70s, it’s well worth considering that, a mere 50 years prior, the assimilation of jazz and American folk music was enthusiastically heralded by European composers as one of the best new avenues for post-Wagner art music to develop. So, hey. Take that, you ahistorical music critics.

Elsewhere, plenty of new local music continues to come in on the wire. Punk favorites Cheap Perfume celebrate the release of their latest effort, Burn It Down, with a show at the Black Sheep this Saturday, Nov. 9, with SPELLS, Muscle Beach and Salt of Sanguine in support.

Also, the hard rock quintet Daylight Delirium recently dropped their debut, self-titled EP. If you haven’t yet caught them live, Daylight Delirium, which comprises drummer Jake Haderle, bassist Shane Burghard, guitarists Richard Ito and Eric Friedberg (an employee of the Indy), and singer Anthony Puleo, display an affinity for ’90s alternative rock combined with the facility of progressive rock. Those attributes are on display for their three-track debut, which the band describes as exploring themes of “duality, struggle, and conflict.”

It’s an impressive debut — the band possesses a keen melodic ear that makes for an immediately engaging listen. The anthemic chorus of “Antithesis” is stadium-sized, and “The Calling” showcases both the band’s dextrous playing and Puleo’s soaring vocals.

The band recorded their EP at Destiny Song Studios, and it’s currently available through all major distribution outlets.

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