Album reviews

Toots Thielemans: European Quartet Live (Challenge) £12.99

Here's a lovely record – the veteran harmonica player caught live and in astonishing form four years ago, at 84 and playing with all the spirit and enthusiasm of a teenager. Thielemans' lyricism and the sheer warmth he brings to the music makes a programme of well-chosen standards glow. He's on magisterial form on two Gershwin turnes – Summertime and I Loves You Porgy – and they set the standard for eveything that follows. Thielemans has made many records in a long career, and this one is up there with the best of them. AV

The Cookers: Warriors (Jazz legacy Productions) 12.99The Cookers is an all-star group that aims to replicate the style and mood of mid-60s Blue Note albums on this inventive CD, they have the approach down pat. There are some big hitters here – tenorman Billy Harper and trumpeter Eddie Henderson among them – and they play up to their reputations on a programme of originals by band members, demonstrating that the energy of a very productive period in jazz still has plenty to offer a contemporary group. AV

Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe. LSO (Live, LSO 0693) 8.99Ravel described his tone poem as a "symphonie chorographique" and Valery Gergiev gives us the complete ballet rather than the more frequently performed concert suite. The London Symphony Orchestra steals in with a whisper of strings and demonstrates the range of its virtuosity. Gergiev is not always the most relaxed conductor but he finds sensuous repose beside passion in this richly coloured account. Ravel's Bolero is also present in an account of sonic splendour. Superb recording quality. RC

A Song in Season: Music by John Rutter. Collegium Records, COLCD 135. 12.99Although John Rutter is almost as familiar as Santa at Christmas, this disc contains a number of sacred pieces besides the carols. The composer's ready gift for melody is in evidence from the brassy Wells Jubilate to the reflective "O Lord, thou hast searched me out". Sweetness yields to austerity in the Veni Sancte Spiritus, perhaps the finest work and Rutter conducts the Cambridge Singers and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a striking enterprise. RC