My friend Carlos Cornier plays congas with an ensemble in Chicago called Funkadesi. They are an exuberant fusion of rasta reggae, bangra, latin and rock with touches of funk, township and house chucked in for good measure. Their musicianship is excellent and their arrangements are as tight as cycle pants. This is celebratory stuff. If you are ever going to have a party — and I think that you should — then these are the perfect sounds to make you guests shout ‘This is different!’ while being propelled helplessly onto the dance floor.
Spartacus premiered in 1954, the year after Stalin’s death, when the Soviet state still associated itself with the brave revolutionary rather than totalitarian Rome. So Khatchurian, who had been condemned alongside Shostakovitch and Prokofiev a few years before, was made a People’s Artist with the release of this marvellous ballet suite rather than being sent off to the gulag.
The famous Adagio is a soaring and beautiful piece, but it is well worth buying the Naxos disc of the Spartacus Suites 1-3, which is played by the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra with suitable gusto. Heavy Metal fans of Tchaikovsky or One Minute Silence alike should enjoy this rousing work. As ever with Naxos the price is eminently reasonable, and the recording is excellent (and absolutely digital).
Joe Newman’s amazing solos are noted in The Guitarists, and I am writing a piece about the band, but don't wait for me — be sweet to yourself and buy their album.