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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: May 21, 2012 Archive

Billy the Kid, a rediscovery

Posted at 8:07 AM on May 21, 2012 by Emily Reese (2 Comments)

Aaron Copland

The other night on Classical MPR, I had the opportunity to play a suite from Aaron Copland's ballet, Billy the Kid. It reminded me of one of my all-time favorite records made by one of my favorite musicians.

In 1993, just three years after Copland's passing, a jazz guitarist named Bill Frisell covered Billy the Kid on an album called, Have a Little Faith. Frisell included a Sousa march, a Madonna cover, Charles Ives and John Hiatt's incredibly amazing song that shares the album's title. It's a critically-acclaimed representation of Americana.

Frisell's cover (so to speak) of Billy the Kid makes fantastic example of an orchestral work that doesn't have to be orchestral. The instrumentation is sparse; he uses a five-piece band consisting of himself, clarinet, accordion, bass and drums. Frisell's trademark use of a distant, reverberant tone fits marvelously well with Copland's music.

So, if you're feeling adventurous and you'd like to hear how Frisell and his band treat Copland's ballet music, you can check it out below. If nothing else, listen to the first movement, "The Open Prairie." Also recommended, "Billy in Prison."

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