Broadway: Music from West Side Story (2004)

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

A pleasant enough hour of songs gleaned from Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical of 1957 and gracefully performed by Broadway, a well-ordered quartet whose melodic aspects rest largely in the capable hands of flautist Ali Ryerson.

While I’d have preferred to hear the occasional fanfare for brass and winds, or romantic interlude for full string section, Broadway makes the most of what it has, relying for the most part on Ryerson to state the theme while pianist Rex Cadwallader, bassist Mike Asetta and drummer Arti Dixson supply the rhythmic muscle. It works well as far as it goes—which is to say that, accomplished as these musicians are, there are only four of them, so one must weigh that against the care and commitment they lend to music that was in essence written for an orchestra. It’s a quartet date most of the way, with Ryerson doubling only on the lively “Jump” to add an extra flute.

The music, it should be noted, is exemplary, which is one reason why West Side Story was such an enormous and long-running success. “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “America,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere” and the four other songs are masterpieces of their kind, and it’s delightful to hear them again in any framework. Ryerson is an admirable soloist, as is Cadwallader, and everyone works hard to breathe new life into the score.

The session is largely sedate but essentially charming, and one’s response to it may depend in part on his or her fondness for the format in which it is presented, a quartet comprised of flute and rhythm.

Track Listing: Jet Song; Something

Personnel: Ali Ryerson, flutes; Rex Cadwallader, piano; Mike Asetta, bass; Arti Dixson, drums.

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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