ROUSE Trombone Concerto, Gorgon, Iscariot, trombonist Joseph Alessi, Colorado Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop (RCA 68410). Flute Concerto, Symphony No. 2, Phaethon, flutist Carol Wincenc, Houston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach (Telarc 80452). Christopher Rouse (b. 1948) is one of our most engrossing American composers. Sometimes he comes on a bit strong for conservative ears, but he's always saying something that gets your attention. Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, the Trombone Concerto is incantatory, solemn and elegiac, profoundly moving and played by Alessi with magnificent poise and riveting focus. It was dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, who died just as Rouse began its composition, and includes a quotation from his "Kaddish" Symphony. Even though it occasionally has the burning intensity felt in Sibelius' Symphony No. 7 and the solemnity of Berlioz's "Symphonie Funereal et Triomphale," you've probably never heard a trombone played with this level of gravity before. "Gorgon" will be frenetically exciting for some, overkill for others, as it evokes the horror of the mythological snake-haired Gorgons with the pile-driving aggressiveness and power of an unbridled rock group. "Iscariot" is symbolic of betrayal; dense, static and profound, yet also reminiscent of the chilling serenity in Ives' "Unanswered Question," rising to a fierce climax with the quotation of a Bach chorale. Rating:**** . The five-movement 1993 Flute Concerto is filled with resonances of Rouse's Celtic ancestry and strewn with gorgeous hymnlike passages, punctuated by a Hindemithian march and a flirtation with an Irish jig. At its center is a remembrance of James Bulger, the British boy killed by two 10-year-olds, containing excruciatingly lush chorale-like passages that must rank among the most gorgeous orchestral creations of the decade. Wincenc's role is partly virtuosic, partly ornamental and decorous, and superb in both cases. "Phaethon" is an unrelentingly energetic piece representing the mythological "Phaethon being knocked out of the sky by Zeus." Symphony No. 2 contains a central lament, with Shostakovich references, on the death of fellow composer Stephen Albert. Rating: **** 1/2
-- Herman Trotter
JACKY TERRASSON AND CASSANDRA WILSON Rendezvous (Blue Note 7243-8-55-484-0). When it's good, this meeting of two of the greatest jazz talents of the late '90s is so good that it makes most of what other jazz singers are doing these days seem either wan and cutesy or needlessly gymnastic. Terrasson is a conceptualist as a player, so he seems to feel no urgency to show off at all. It's he who concocted all these ultra-intimate settings for the richest contralto in jazz. (No conventional trap drummer, for instance, is present, only percussionist Mino Cinelu.) By disc's end, all the moodiness and coolness begin to seem a tiny bit languid. Still, this is a marvelous meeting of two of the freshest and most open-minded younger talents in jazz -- certainly the reigning specialists at radically revising great standards like "Old Devil Moon," "Autumn Leaves," "It Might as Well Be Spring" and, yes, Patti Page's old "Tennessee Waltz." Rating: ****
-- Jeff Simon
PAT MARTINO All Sides Now (Blue Note CDP-7243-8-37627-2-9). Guitarists just love other guitarists. No matter what the musical form, they seem to exist in a separate musical subset of their own in a way that no other instrumentalists do. This is one of the finest guitarist parties I've ever heard, and all in honor of the spectacular jazz guitarist whose brain aneurysm almost took him out of music altogether. The power of Martino's articulation before his illness remains unmatched, but this is far and away the finest music he has made since his recovery and return. To help him celebrate his festive Pat Martino-ness, he has Charlie Hunter, Tuck Andress, "Tonight Show" bandleader Kevin Eubanks, the great San Francisco rock guitarist Joe Satriani (no kidding), Mike Stern, Michael Hedges and grand old man Les Paul. (Wait until you hear the sweet perfection of their unison work on "I'm Confessin' That I Love You.") The wonderfully ubiquitous Cassandra Wilson shows up to perform a version of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" that turns Mitchell's oranges and yellows to soul-sweeping deep mahogony blue. As a demonstration of guitarists' affection for one of their own -- who was once almost lost -- this isn't just beautiful music, it's deeply moving as a gesture. Rating: **** 1/2
(1) Candle in the Wind 1997/Something About the Way You Look Tonight, Elton John (Rocket). (2) 4 Seasons of Loneliness, Boyz II Men (Motown). (3) How Do I Live, LeAnn Rimes (Curb). (4) You Make Me Wanna . . . , Usher (LaFace). (5) Honey, Mariah Carey (Columbia).
(1) Evolution, Boyz II Men (Motown). (2) You Light Up My Life -- Inspirational Songs, LeAnn Rimes (Curb). (3) Butterfly, Mariah Carey (Columbia). (4) The Greatest Hits Collection, Brooks & Dunn (Arista Nashville). (5) Ghetto D, Master P (No Limit).
(1) How Your Love Makes Me Feel, Diamond Rio (Arista). (2) How Do I Get There, Deana Carter (Capitol Nashville). (3) The Fool, Le Ann Wo-mack (Decca). (4) Everywhere, Tim McGraw (Curb). (5) Go Away, Lorrie Morgan (BNA).