An American Rhapsody / Calefax

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The reed players of Calefax go on a musical road trip across the United States on An American Rhapsody. The programme captures several iconic composers from different periods and backgrounds, ranging from Florence Price, Henry Burleigh, George Gershwin, Samuel Barber and Moondog to Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Billie Strayhorn, Stevie Wonder and Kinan Azmeh. Taken together, these pieces reflect America’s kaleidoscopic diversity and its rich yet complex culture and history. The album is a declaration of love to a country that Calefax has frequently visited over the last two decades and continues to fascinate. An American Rhapsody is Calefax’s fourth PENTATONE release, after Bach’s Musical Offerings (2020), Dido and Aeneas (2019) and Hidden Gems (2018).


The disc opens with a bravura account of Rhapsody in Blue (arranged by Hekkema), immaculately played, that manages to make you unaware of the absence of the supposedly crucial solo piano. It’s dark, sexy, and the opening clarinet slide is to die for. Equally revelatory is Althuis’s arrangement of Barber’s Excursions, a work for solo piano that fattens up nicely when padded out by woodwinds. The slow blues second movement is dreamy, while the chattering finale breathes the spirit of jazz. Florence Price’s Piano Sonata actually sounds like it must have been written for these forces, so effortlessly does it flow.

The rest of the disc includes music by jazz composers—from Duke Ellington’s “In a sentimental mood” to Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the child”—and pop musicians like Stevie Wonder’s uber-smooth “Overjoyed.” Moondog’s “New Amsterdam” is the mood indigo finale to a silken and stimulating slice of Americana.

-- Musical America

The precision with which Calefax plays, and the balance they achieve in their playing, didn’t arrive overnight but is instead the result of many years playing together. This is one musical road trip across the United States you’ll definitely want to take.

-- Textura

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 17, 2023

  • UPC: 8717306260466

  • Catalog Number: PTC5187046

  • Label: Pentatone

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Stevie Wonder, Kinan Azmeh, Samuel Barber, Henry Thacker Burleigh, Eric Dolphy, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Arthur Herzog Jr., Billie Holiday, Moondog, Florence Beatrice Price, Billy Strayhorn

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Calefax Reed Quintet


  1. Rhapsody in Blue

    Composer: George Gershwin

    Ensemble: Calefax

  2. Southland Sketches (excerpts)

    Composer: Harry Burleigh

    Ensemble: Calefax

  3. Excursions, Op. 20

    Composer: Samuel Barber

    Ensemble: Calefax

  4. Sonata in E Minor

    Composer: Florence Price

    Ensemble: Calefax

  5. God Bless The Child

    Composer: Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog Jr., Eric Dolphy

    Ensemble: Calefax

  6. Satin Doll

    Composer: Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn

    Ensemble: Calefax

  7. In a Sentimental Mood

    Composer: Duke Ellington

    Ensemble: Calefax

  8. Overjoyed

    Composer: Stevie Wonder

    Ensemble: Calefax

  9. Kinan Azmeh

    Composer: Airports for reed quintet

    Ensemble: Calefax

  10. New Amsterdam

    Composer: Moondog

    Ensemble: Calefax