09-20: Sibelius 1 2 5 7 Barbirolli - Link 80 Killing Katie 1997 - Ben Webster Ballads 1955 - Gilles Binchois / Discantus 2009 - Sarasate Zigeunerweisen Heifetz 1937

1460 – Gilles Binchois (Franco-Flemish composer)
1590 – Lodovico Agostini (Italian composer, singer, priest & scholar)
1630 – Claudio Saracini (Italian composer, lutenist & singer)
1648 – Ivan Lukačić (Croatian-born composer & church musician, active in Italy)
1896 – Johan Gottfried Conradi (Norwegian conductor & composer)
1897 – Karel Bendl (Czech composer & conductor)
1908 – Pablo de Sarasate (Spanish violinist & composer)
1957 – Jean Sibelius (Finnish composer)
1957 – Heino Kaski (Finnish composer & pianist)
1960 – Michel Brusselmans (Belgian soundtrack composer)
1967 – Henri Mulet (French organist & composer)
1968 – Frank Pelleg (Czech-born Israeli harpsichordist, pianist, conductor, composer & teacher)
1973 – Ben Webster (American jazz tenor saxophonist & pianist)
1973 – Jim Croce (American singer-songwriter & guitarist)
1974 – Robert Herberigs (Belgian composer)
1984 – Steve Goodman (American folk singer-songwriter, "City of New Orleans")
1994 – Jule Styne (English-born American Broadway composer & pianist)
1994 – Jimmy Hamilton (American jazz clarinetist, tenor saxophonist, arranger, composer & teacher)
1996 – Paul Weston (American pop pianist, arranger, composer & conductor)
1997 – Nick Traina (American punk/ska singer, Link 80, son of Danielle Steel)
2006 – Armin Jordan (Swiss conductor)
2006 – John W. Peterson (American composer of hymns & cantatas)
2010 – Leonard Skinner (American high school gym teacher, namesake of Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Some great favorites here. Both Gilles Binchois and Ben Webster were one of the Big Three in their day. "Wha??" you say? That's right... Binchois, considered by some the finest melodist of the 15th century, was one of the most prominent members of the Burgundian School, along with Guillaume Dufay and John Dunstable - composers who served the court of Burgundy and represented the first generation of composers we think of as "Renaissance." And Ben Webster was one of the three greatest tenor sax players to come out of the swing era, along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

They called Webster "The Brute" or "Frog" because of the rough, raspy tone he used on rhythm tunes - although his sound became sweetly coy and sentimental on ballads. In fact, it's safe to say that with Ben Webster, we get a greater timbral variety, from wispy, breathy warbles to petulant growls, than we do with just about any other sax player in jazz. And look, there's reedman Jimmy Hamilton on the list, too! Both Webster and Hamilton were alumni of Duke Ellington's great orchestra in the 30s & 40s... Hamilton stayed on with Ellington for decades longer, but Webster had a falling-out with the Duke (in which he apparently cut up one of Ellington's suits - ouch!) and went off on his own in 1943. Webster would go on to do his best work in the 50s, perhaps most notably on Soulville from 1957, considered to be the very first soul jazz album in the history of jazz... and, soul.

The real bigwig on the list, however, is the national composer of Finland, Jean Sibelius. It must suck to be any Finnish composer coming after Sibelius - always being compared to this musical giant who had such an idiosyncratic artistic voice. And boy, it must have really sucked to be poor Heino Kaski... a much lesser-known Finnish composer, pooping on the same day as Sibelius. Sibelius, who for many years was widely performed little elsewhere than in the Nordic countries and Britain, is known primarily for his seven symphonies, his violin concerto, and his many symphonic poems based on Finnish lore and legend. He's also known as one of the last of the great late Romantic composers, who somewhat like Richard Strauss lived into the mid-20th century as a symbol of a bygone era as several fads of modernism came and went. Unlike Strauss, Sibelius decided he'd said all he wanted to by the late 1920s, and committed hardly a note to music paper for the last 30 years of his life, preferring instead to focus his energies on fostering interest in performances and recordings of his existing body of works. See you on the other side of the early retirement...


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