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Fumio Yasuda and Theo Bleckmann: Fumio Yasuda and Theo Bleckmann: Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne

C. Michael Bailey By

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Fumio Yasuda and Theo Bleckmann: Fumio Yasuda and Theo Bleckmann: Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne This whimsical sound trip to the heyday of Las Vegas celebrates the city's one hundredth anniversary. German-born and New York-based singer Theo Bleckmann and Japanese pianist/arranger/composer Fumio Yasuda unite with Bernd Ruf and the Kammerorchester Basel to transform carefully chosen selections from the American Songbook into a soundtrack for celebrating the rich decadence and unbridled hedonism of the "new Gomorrah" in all her splendor. These three musical forces come together at an aural tipple point that almost defies description as it is a project much bigger than a collection of old songs.

Theo Bleckmann is best described as a "performance stylist" after ten years in the busy New York nightlife. Boasting a remarkable personage, elegant magnetism and a three-and-a-half octave vocal range, Bleckmann brings to Las Vegas Rhapsody all of prewar Berlin's over-the-top creativity and delicious intemperance. He does this against the sumptuous backdrop of Fumio Yasuda's lushly elegant orchestrations. Fumio Yasuda was born in 1953 in Tokyo. He began composing at age seventeen and graduated from Kunitachi College of Music as a Composition major.

For Rhapsody Yasuda arranges the music for both full orchestra with strings and small ensemble. The disc is book-ended by Bleckmann and Yasuda's "Las Vegas Rhapsody," decked out in black-tie musical regalia. The Rhapsody shares the large ensemble format with brightly-lit interpretations of "The Night They Invented Champagne" and "A Gal in Calico" and velvety thoughts of the vocal-ensemble "Teacher's Pet" and "True Love."

Smaller confines are used for "You Make Me Feel So Young" (voice and piano) and a shoot-the-moon "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," reducing to a single instrument, the marimbaphone, for the bubbly "You Go to My Head." Bleckmann's vibratoless voice floats above the percussive steps like, wellâ'¦bubbles in champagne. Bleckmann is similarly suspended over "Chim Chim Cheree's" pizzicato strings, charming the Mary Poppins ballad with his sheer androgyny. In both songs, the rhythm and melody vehicles are deployed in unexpected ways, sharply accenting the roundness of Bleckmann's superb instrument. "My Favorite Things" is completely reclaimed from both John Coltrane and the Hollidays and placed back in the cabaret where it belongs.

Las Vegas Rhapsody is virtually a soundtrack, reminding me of the bracingly period popular music used in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004). Neither are exactly sepia-toned, both having the slightly nostalgic patina of early color photographs. Bleckmann and Yasuda's label, Winter & Winter has an Edition titled "AudioFilmsâ'¦musical essays about a whore house in Paris, the sidewalks of New York, the journey with the Orient Express, the travelogue about a trip to La Habana, andâ'¦ Rhapsody, while a Music Edition release, would fit in well here, as it is properly the soundtrack of the office manager, closing his eyes at work and thinking about those bright lights in the desert.

Visit Fumio Yasuda and Theo Bleckmann on the web.


Track Listing: Las Vegas Rhapsody, Prologue; Out Of My Dreams; The Night They Invented Champagne; Teacher's Pet; True Love; You Make Me Feel So Young; Chim Chim Cheree; A Gal In Calico; You Go To My Head; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; We Kiss In A Shadow; Button Up Your Overcoat; I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo; Luck Be A Lady; My Favorite Things; Las Vegas Rhapsody, Epilogue.

Personnel: Theo Bleckmann: vocals; Fumio Yasuda: orchestration, piano; Kammerorchester Basel, Bernd Ruf: conductor.


Track Listing: Las Vegas Rhapsody, Prologue; Out Of My Dreams; The Night They Invented Champagne; Teacher's Pet; True Love; You Make Me Feel So Young; Chim Chim Cheree; A Gal In Calico; You Go To My Head; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; We Kiss In A Shadow; Button Up Your Overcoat; I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo; Luck Be A Lady; My Favorite Things; Las Vegas Rhapsody, Epilogue.

Personnel: Theo Bleckmann: vocals; Fumio Yasuda: orchestration, piano; Kammerorchester Basel, Bernd Ruf: conductor.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Winter & Winter | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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