First, a few myths get cleared up by the very existence of this box, which goes far beyond the original Columbia compilations with the same name. For starters, Columbia goes a long way to setting the record straight that Charlie Christian was not the first electric guitarist or the first jazz guitarist or the first electric guitarist in jazz. For another, they concentrate on only one thing here: documenting Christian's seminal tenure with Benny Goodman's various bands from 1939-1941. While in essence, that's all there really is, various dodgy compilations have been made advertising Christian playing with Lester Young or Lionel Hampton.
Wielding her violin like a huntress' bow, Lindsey Stirling focuses her classical crossover vision with a deeply imaginative concept for her fifth album, Artemis. Named after the Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon, the effort finds Stirling hitting her artistic stride with a grand soundtrack to a movie that doesn't yet exist, like a neon cyberpunk take on Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings score. Making her early work feel small-scale by comparison – early-2010s tracks like "Song of the Caged Bird," "Beyond the Veil," and "Heist" come closest to what she's offering here – Artemis also benefits from fewer special guests, which was a distraction on her previous full-length, Brave Enough.
Britten’s dramatic cantata Phaedra is the resonant centre of this new release in EMI’s excellent British Composers series. The steely gleam at the core of Felicity Palmer’s mezzo-soprano, and the hard white light of the Endymion’s outstanding ensemble playing make for a fierce kindling of Britten’s music with Robert Lowell’s words at one exceptional moment in the work’s performing history. John Whitfield’s direction ensures that the Five French Folksongs are nicely poised between raw simplicity and elegant sophistication, while the Endymion’s incisive playing warms to the sensuousness of Jill Gomez’s Les Illuminations.
Garnished with a fistful of alternate takes, the 2007 release of Mosaic's 107-track Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 is a welcome and long overdue CD realization of The Complete Lionel Hampton 1937-1941, a six-LP box set released during the 1970s by the Bluebird label. Only Teddy Wilson came close to achieving what Hamp did in the late 1930s and early '40s, by bringing together the greatest soloists on the scene for a staggeringly productive and inspired series of recordings that essentially defined the state of jazz during the years immediately preceding the Second World War.