CD Review / Classical Music

CD Review: Red Hot + Bach

Johann Sebastien Bach was an amazing composer. He combined the meticulous and careful nature of the German composers with some dance most commonly used by French composers and the joy of Vivaldi! His music can be played on any medium – from the traditional string orchestra to the organ to a guitar to a synthesizer. It doesn’t matter if you play the jaw harp, if it’s Bach’s music and it’s played well, it will sound good.

Red Hot is an organization that fights AIDS by way of pop culture. It collaborates with musicians to create albums to help raise funds and awareness about HIV and AIDS. To date, they’ve released about 16 different albums with their latest’s being Red Hot & Bach.

HIV / AIDs affects so many people throughout the world. It became known to the population at large back in the early 80s when we first learned of Rock Hudson and how he was sick with a disease that, at the time, was a guaranteed death sentence.

It is no longer. Since then, our knowledge of the disease has grown and we’ve learned how to avoid it as well as how to treat it making it something that can be treated and maintained. It’s still horrible and scary, but it’s something with which people can still live their lives.

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All of Red Hot’s music albums have something to do with AIDS, usually by way of a specific musician affected by it. Granted, one doesn’t think of J.S. Bach when AIDS is mentioned, but in the music industry – like all other industries – people have most definitely been affected.

From the Red Hot website:

Red Hot’s albums all have a theme affiliated with AIDS. Not only do all the proceeds go towards the fight against AIDS, but each album is inspired by an artist who has been affected by AIDS. For example, Red Hot + Riot and Red Hot + Fela were both tributes to Fela Kuti who died of AIDS. With that in mind, you may be thinking how does Bach relate to AIDS, and here is your answer: he doesn’t. Johann Sebastian Bach has absolutely nothing to do with AIDS but Paul Jacobs does.

Red Hot + Bach’s inspiration came from the virtuosic, yet under-known, story of the pianist, Paul Jacobs. Jacobs was the lead pianist with the New York Philharmonic during the Leonard Bernstein era. He performed countless Bach pieces including four works which he recorded in 1967 and released as the Busoni Transcriptions on Nonesuch Records. When we heard these recording at the Red Hot offices, we were blown away by the simple elegance of his playing and felt inspired to challenge artists to rethink their performances of Bach’s music. Beyond his simple musical prowess, we felt compelled to tell his story after discovering that Jacobs was, in fact, one of the first reported persons to die of AIDS in New York City on September 25th, 1983.

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Red Hot & Bach is a fun album filled with 29 re-imaginations of sorts of many of Bach’s pieces. Some are performed as originally intended (or as we think they were originally intended) but many are performed in completely different styles – something easily done with Bach’s music as it is so versatile in nature. This album takes you from the original baroque-era classical sound to blue grass to Spanish guitar to more of an avant-garde type of sound with musicians ranging from Rob Moose and Chris Thile to the Kronos Quartet.

There’s not a bad track on the album and no matter what your taste in music is, you’re sure to find plenty of music you like – all while supporting a very worthwhile cause. I hope you’ll take some time to check it out.

Visit the official website to learn more about RedHot.org.

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