May 16, 2010


(Ferde Grofe - forever known as the "Grand Canyon Suite guy")

A sampling of 1920s Americana "Symphonic Jazz" tonight. Ferde Grofe will probably go down in history as the man who wrote The Grand Canyon Suite which, despite its pretense of being a serious piece of music, has been relegated to history's fluff-bin forever. When George Gershwin introduced his Rhapsody In Blue to concertgoers, it created a sensation and a signal for every composer in America (if not the world) to start using the Jazz idiom as something of a stepping off point for modern classical music. Some of it was successful, but a lot of it was pretty tepid and totally unremarkable. I would have to say that Metropolis is one of them.

Grofe, in addition to being a composer of pop as well as semi-Classical music, was also arranger for the Paul Whiteman band. Whiteman made his name as the one who introduced Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and he was pegged for a long time as the one who did "Symphonic Jazz", adding strings to his brass and reed lineup, making Jazz accessible to the mainstream audience.

So when Grofe put together Metropolis (no relation to the movie, by the way), it was only natural Whiteman would perform and record it. It was probably not one of the more successful ventures as it's never been widely performed and certainly not recorded after this 1928 performance.

So with all that in mind, have a listen.

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