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An intriguing disc which at first glance looks like as if it shouldn’t work, but does. Boogie-woogie and blues (by Bell and others) are pitted against well-known pieces by Beethoven and Chopin. The Chopin items plus the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata finale share with boogie-woogie a need for finger fluency and velocity, and Bell provides those in spades. Contrasts are finely drawn (between Bell’s Boogie and Chopin Op 10/1, for example).

Bell is finest in his own works, spewing forth froth like a malfunctioning barista. The frivolity is infectious, the atmosphere closer to that of live performance than the studio; but underlying all of this is Bell’s rock-solid sense of rhythm. Chopin’s Ballade No 4 hints at depths Bell can achieve in the standard repertoire. Well recorded, this is something of a treat.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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