The ineffable magic of New York City fires the imagination of superstar pianist Lang Lang on his new albumNew York Rhapsody (Sony Classical) available September 16, 2016. He is joined by a wide array of special guests including Andra Day, Herbie Hancock, Jason Isbell, Jeffrey Wright, Kandace Springs, Lindsey Stirling, Lisa Fischer, Madeleine Peyroux and Sean Jones. From the haunting reveries of Gershwin and Copland to the in-the-moment intensity of songs made famous by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, Lou Reed and Don Henley, New York Rhapsody rediscovers the dazzle and the soul of America's most symbolic city. Following the release of the album, a star-studded concert special Live From Lincoln Center will air on PBS on November 25, 2016 as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.
"I made this album because I wanted to pay homage to the city that I love," says Lang Lang of New York Rhapsody. "This city has changed the course of music more than any other in the last hundred years. It has inspired and enriched me beyond words and has become my home away from home."
New York City feels similarly about Lang Lang. They just named Lang Lang the city's first ever NYC Cultural Tourism ambassador. This is in partnership with NYC and Company in celebration of this year's official "China-U.S. Tourism Year" as designated by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama.
For New York Rhapsody, Lang Lang joined forces with Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein to create an album that embraces the musical spirit of New York in ways both surprising and traditional. Inspired by E.B. White's celebrated essay "Here Is New York," Klein assembled musical ideas and energies that both reflect New York's past and evoke its dynamic present.
The centerpiece of the album is a performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue featuring Lang Lang and multiple Grammy-winning jazz legend, Herbie Hancock in a two-piano version conducted by John Axelrod with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Surrounding it on New York Rhapsody are creative collaborations that reimagine songs reflecting the varying moods and experiences New York offers.
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Jason Isbell gives a fresh edge to Elbow's evocative "New York Morning" and Grammy-nominated R&B singer Andra Day adds a new dimension to the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' hit "Empire State of Mind." Kandace Springs gives a new treatment to Don Henley's moody "New York Minute." Singer Madeleine Peyroux recaptures the alone-in-the-city wistfulness of "Moon River," the Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer classic from the essential New York movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.
In one of the album's boldest choices, co-arrangers Klein and Grammy-winner Billy Childs marry the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim song "Somewhere" from West Side Story with Lou Reed's "Dirty Blvd" from his classic album New York. Lisa Fischer's vocal in the yearning "Somewhere" is a powerful contrast to actor Jeffrey Wright's interpretation of Lou Reed's indelible words in "Dirty Blvd."
Next, Lang Lang is joined by violinist Lindsey Stirling on a spinning version of Danny Elfman's theme for Spider-Man; and then by trumpeter Sean Jones on the West Side Story classic "Tonight" by Leonard Bernstein.
Bookending New York Rhapsody are perhaps surprising choices - quiet, contemplative pieces by New York's greatest musical poet, Aaron Copland. To open, Lang Lang and Klein chose "The Story of Our Town," from Copland's 1940 Our Town film score, to evoke the dozens of small "towns" within the big city. To close, one of Copland's last works, the rarely heard "In Evening Air," reminds us says Klein, "there are always pockets of peace and quiet beauty" in New York.
1. Story of Our Town
2. New York Morning - feat. Jason Isbell
3. Empire State Of Mind - feat. Andra Day
4. Rhapsody in Blue - feat. Herbie Hancock
5. New York Minute - feat. Kandace Springs
6. Somewhere (Dirty Blvd) - feat. Lisa Fischer / Jeffrey Wright
7. Spider-Man Theme - feat. Lindsey Stirling
8. Tonight - feat. Sean Jones
9. Moon River - feat. Madeleine Peyroux
10. In Evening Air