- The Wang Wang Blues
- Grand Boubousse, for clarinet, piano & drums
This release by clarinetist Emma Johnson takes its title from Alec Templeton's "Bach Goes to Town," an enjoyable work, but one slightly to the side of the idea the program represents. That idea is one that seems to make perfect sense, but was derailed by the modernist diktat and has only rarely been realized: the expansion of the vernacular repertory of the turn of the 19th to the 20th century to include jazz. Thus Johnson and her collaborators, pianist John Lenehan and percussionist Paul Clarvis, with the Carducci String Quartet on a few tracks, join the likes of Vittorio Monti's "Czárdas" with Gershwin, Scott Joplin, and Sidney Bechet (and even the "St. James Infirmary Blues") on one hand, and the popular (and in Debussy's case, even jazzier) side of Dvorák, Brahms, and Ravel on the other. Sample the Monti for an idea of what fun this sometimes café-based music can be, and you'll be thankful that Johnson has played a role in bringing it back. Johnson has a feel for how natural it is to combine this music with jazz, and for the jazz pieces themselves, where the clarinet is, of course, right at home. The album also reproduces a bit of the rhythmic discomfort English musicians sometimes felt with jazz back in the 1920s, but in general this is a highly enjoyable program of light music that will delight listeners who hear it at holiday gatherings and those beyond.