Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cannonball Meets Slava

On April 27, 2007, Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich died in Moscow. I am familiar with his gigantic talent thanks to a friend who shared a coveted ticket to a Carnegie Hall recital in the late 1950's. I remember a man walking on stage quickly, and seating himself at the concert grand piano. He was settled in seconds, and then another man, tall, and distinguished looking, with military stride and bearing, advanced to the chair in front of the piano, flipped the tails of his formal attire, sat down with his cello, and without fanfare, launched into the first selection. I was as mesmerized as every other devoted fan in the packed-out house.

My memory records that soon after that extraordinary experience, I purchased the LP of The Concerto for Cello And Orchestra No. 1 in E-Flat Major Opus 107 composed by Dmitri Shostakovitch for "Slava", a loving soubriquet meaning "glory" in Russian. The LP never left the turn-table for weeks on end, particuarly since the Second Movement tore my heart out. Still does.

Stay with me now: It is summer 1961, and I am witnessing a legendary record date in Webster Hall, NYC, invited to attend by the soloist Oscar Peterson. Oscar, Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen augmented by a large all-star orchestra led by Quincy Jones, the album will be called "Bursting Out". It's still available and sounds as fresh as ever.

Some of the members of the band are Phil Woods, Jerome Richardson, Bernie Glow and Julian "Cannonball" Adderly. I know most of these gentlemen, jazz club habitue that I am, frequently meeting and greeting them. After the session, Julian invites me to share a spot of lunch with him, and since I am also howling to anyone who will listen that the Shostakovich Cello Concerto is such tremendously exciting music it MUST be heard, he agrees to come back to my place to enjoy a sample.

The haunting Second Movement works its magic on me, but Cannonball falls into a deep sleep on the sofa. I retreat to the other room to allow him at least an hour of uninterrupted rest, and then wake him. I re-played the Second Movement for him, his reaction much like my own. To prove his enthusiasm, he insists we head directly to the nearest record emporium so that he may buy his own copy of the work. We did and he did.

Everytime I saw Julian thereafter, he made a point of telling me the Concerto remained one of his favorite recordings of all time.

R.I.P. dear Slava ...

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