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On his latest adventurous CD “Spring Garden”, the pianist and retired professor of the Eastman School of Music, Harold Danko, pays tribute to Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”. Danko’s extensive liner notes leave no doubt about his fascination – actually obsession – for Stravinsky’s ballet score from 1913.
When “The Rite of Spring” premiered in Paris, audiences and critics were not ready for Vaslav Nijinsky’s radical choreography and Stravinsky’s apparently cacophonic music. However, over the following century, the music was widely recognized for its avant-garde brilliance. Many jazz artists, from Alice Coltrane to The Bad Plus, have interpreted it.
In the decades since Danko first heard it in the 1960s, he has thought about the orchestral score and the four-hand piano score. All 10 original Danko compositions for “Spring Garden” released by SteepleChase Records contain references to Stravinsky’s masterpiece. Along the way, Danko also channels other musical influences, including tango, blues, and standards.
Rich Perry’s tenor saxophone is consistently well represented and, in contrast to Danko’s often impressionistic and abstract keyboard work, takes a more pronounced melodic lead. Bassist Jay Anderson contributes fine solos and anchors the complex rhythms together with drummer Jeff Hirshfield.
Ron Netsky is a contributing writer for CITY News.