A 40 year love affair must count for something, and I've been in love with The Golden Striker for 40 years. At the time of its appearance around 1960, it was hailed as "third stream music", a delicate blend of traditional jazz and baroque classical. Third stream music never quite caught on, but this album has remained burned in the memory.
John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet is the composer, pianist and conductor. But it's the make-up of the group which gives The Golden Striker its unique blend of sound: piano, three French horns, four trumpets, two trombones, tuba, bass and drums
Most of the tracks take their inspiration from commedia dell'arte, and the freewheeling fluency of John Lewis's piano and Alan Kiger's sympathetic trumpet take you on a Renaissance journey through self-important religious processions smartly followed by a mocking and motley collection of clowns and tumblers, tragic heroines, vulgarians and villains.
The scene moves between Rome (Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna) and Venice (The Golden Striker), with featured roles for the coarse Pulcinella ( Pulcinella), while Columbine's understudy (La Cantarice) evokes some of the melancholy of Stravinsky's Petrouchka.
The music is by turns stately and almost ecclesiastical, then hard driving and rhythmic, at one point pure Dixieland when the whole group breaks into a stomping New Orleans style march.
The piano solos by John Lewis on the Golden Striker and Piazza Navona tracks are some of the most delicate I've ever heard, jazz or classical. Eric Satie never wrote better. Try it. Buy it.