REVIEWING OLYMPIC GOLD BIG BANDS, ORCHESTRAS & SMALL ENSEMBLES

By Dee Dee McNeil

July 25, 2021

BOB MINTZER & WDR BIG BAND COLOGNE – “SOUNDSCAPES” – MCG Jazz

Bob Mintzer, tenor saxophone/electronic wind instrument (EWI)/composer/arranger/conductor; WDR MEMBERS: Billy Test, piano; Paul Shigihara, guitar; Stefan Rey, acoustic & electric bass; Hans Dekker, drums; Marico Doctor, guest percussionist. Johan Hӧrlen & Karolina Strassmayer, alto saxophones; Olivier Peters & Paul Heller, tenor saxophones; Jens Neufang, baritone saxophone; Wim Both, Rob Bruynen, Andy Haderer & Ruud Breuls, trumpet; Ludwig NuB, Raphael Klemm & Andy Hunter, trombone; Mattis Cederberg, bass trombone.

For the past six years, Bob Mintzer has been the chief conductor of the WDR Big Band Cologne.  He wanted to work with a large, world-class ensemble to explore his intricate arrangements and showcase his original composer skills.  There is a tradition at the WDR Big Band to have the chief conductor fashion a project of their music and showcase their talents on their specific instrument.

“I’ve been primarily concerned with organizing concerts that either featured all the great musicians in the band … or arranging the music of one of several iconic guests that were jointly selected to be featured.  I’ve enjoyed the challenge of tackling these activities,” Bob Mintzer mused.

“My mission in creating the music here was to make a warm, beautiful sound, with the occasional smattering of complexity amongst singable melodies, interlocking rhythmical counterpoint and an amalgam of grooves from around the world,” Bob explained.

The WDR big band opens with a tune called “A Reprieve” rich with Latin rhythms and a melody you will want to whistle along with. Track 2 is titled, “The Conversation” and brightly features guest percussionist, Marcio Doctor.  The tune is soaked in Afro-Cuban rhythms and features Mintzer, dominant on tenor saxophone.  “Stay Up” starts out up-tempo and swinging, with plenty of staccato starts and stops; but quickly changes course to a sweet tenor solo that flys and swoops above a lovely background of horn harmonics, with Hans Dekker pounding away on drums to inspire the ensemble.  Johan Horlen contributes an inspirational alto sax solo that lifts the piece.  This is straight-ahead jazz that thrills me. A song called “Montuno” reflects the heart of Cuban rumba and Mintzer’s love affair with the New York City Latin jazz scene. 

“I played in Tito Puente’s band for a year in 1974 and I played in a lot of salsa bands around New York prior to and after that,” Mintzer reminisces.  “I worked with Eddie Palmieri’s band.  So, I’ve played thousands of Montunos in my time.” 

This is an album full of cayenne spice, but cool as flavored, crushed ice cones on a hot summer day.  It’s full of harmony and descants; melody and musical conversation. Bob Mintzer has a love for counterpoint and you hear it these arrangements.  His compositions and arrangements keep the listener interested and he doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with his various team players.   The joy of creating a big band project is dependent on gathering musicians together, with various viewpoints and cultural identities, but orchestrating to make them inclusive in the project in a unified and artistic way.  Mintzer exhibits a gift in this area.  He is also able to bend genres in his arrangements.  On the tune “Whack” for example, he blends fusion and funk in a delicious way, keeping the WDR Big Band solid with their harmonics and traditional flair. At the same time, he incorporates an electronic sound that propels the piece. It’s Mintzer stretching out on the EWI.   Paul Heller solos notably on tenor saxophone. 

“Canyon Winds” is a Smooth jazz sounding composition that allows Billy Test to showcase his awesome talents on piano and drummer Hans Dekker shines like a full moon on a clear night.  Every one of Bob Mintzer’s compositions is full of light, bright creativity and offers unexpected surprises for our ears. 

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SAM PILNICK’S NONET PROJECT – “THE ADLER SUITE” – Next Level 2122

Sam Pilnick, tenor saxophone/composer; Meghan Stagl, piano; Ben Dillinger, bass; Matthew Smalligan, drums; Ben Cruz, guitar; Euan Edmonds, trombone; Emily Kuhn, trumpet; Ted Hogarth, baritone saxophone; Max Bessesen, alto saxophone.

Sam Pilnick is a Chicago-based bandleader who has composed, produced and arranged this project to take his listeners on a trip to outer space, using a nine-movement suite inspired by Chicago’s beautiful and educational Adler Planetarium.

“As we entered The Adler, I was immediately inspired to write music as I saw the original space craft that brought home the astronauts from the Gemini II mission. … Reading the explanation of our planet, solar system and galaxy filled my mind with musical thoughts,” Sam Pilnick reflected on the inspiration for this project.

On Track 1., “Squawk Box,” Pilnick’s music is very orchestral and classically rooted. Track 2 is titled “Star Launch” and is a little jazzier, with the solo saxophones racing and the horn harmonics in the background warm and supportive.  “Star Launch” is much more engaging than the opening tune.  However, I wish I could hear the drummer more assertively.  Ben Dillinger on bass is clearly heard pumping away, but where are the drums?  Did Matthew Smalligan lay-out on this arrangement or did he get lost in the mix?  Then, out of the blue, the band quiets and the drums come marching through the curtains at the very end of the song.  What was the engineer thinking? 

Sam Pilnick, a tenor saxophone player, seems to lean heavily towards showcasing his woodwind players. The horns appear to have a central place in the spotlight and they are very busy throughout.  “Silver Light” opens with Meghan Stagl’s haunting piano chords, soon usurped by the horn ensemble.  This is a very pretty ballad composition by Pilnick.   We finally hear the drums clearly on Track 6, “House of the Massives (Pismis-24)” where the rhythm section is featured for the first eight bars before the horns dominate.  This arrangement is quite electric, but it’s neither jazz fusion or funk; Avant-garde or traditional.  It’s just busy.  The moderate tempo of most tunes throughout this production leaves this project of original compositions lack-luster and a bit boring, with the exception of the “Star Launch” tune.  However, the premise is noteworthy and the players are champions of their instruments.

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CHRIS STANDRING TRIO & ORCHESTRA – “WONDERFUL WORLD” – Ultimate Vibe Recordings

Chris Standring, guitar; Peter Erskine, drums/percussion; Dave Karasony & Harvey Mason, drums; Geoff Gascoyne, Darek Oleszkiewicz & Chuck Berghofer, bass; Kathrin Shorr, vocals; Randy Brecker, flugelhorn. VIOLINS: Magnus Johnston (leader) Jackie Shave, Thomas Gould, Bea Chappell, Kate Robinson, Ben Hancox, Tom Pigott Smith, Patrick Kiernan, Cathy Thompson & Dan Bhattacharya.  VIOLAS: Bruce White, Andy Parker, Reiad Chibah & Kate Musker.  CELLOS: Caroline Dale, Dave Daniels, Vicky Matthews & Nick Cooper. Tara Minton, harp. Geoff Gascoyne, orchestra arranger/conductor.

Chris Standring is an in-demand guitarist rooted in contemporary smooth jazz.  He prides himself with thirteen Billboard Top 10 singles and six single releases that all reached number one on the popular Billboard Chart.   “Wonderful World” is Standring’s fourteenth release as a leader. However, this album is very different from his other projects.  Instead of composing his own original music, this time Chris decided to put his unique and creative spin on songs from the Great American Songbook.  He also decided to feature a 19-piece orchestra, fulfilling one of his longtime dreams.

“I think there is something magical about the sound of a guitar and orchestra playing together, but I won’t always be in situations where it’s possible to use an orchestra.  So, the arrangements had to be flexible enough to work in a trio setting,” Chris Standring explained.

Chris Standring is a prolific composer, who has written or co-written over 100 songs and all of his other albums have spotlighted those composer abilities.    When asked about how he manages to come up with so many melodic ideas, he responded:

“I’m very disciplined about my writing.  I’m not married and don’t have any children, because I have been so intensely focused on my music and I don’t want any distractions.  I write pretty much every day and need silence and time for reflection. … I listen to a wide range of music styles to spark my creativity.” 

Standring is a native of England, but moved to the West Coast of the United Stated in 1991, settling in Los Angeles.  Almost immediately, he began recording with folks like Rick Braun, Carole Bayer Sager, Jody Watley and gospel icons, Bebe and Cece Winans.  He’s also been on-stage with such icons as Bob James, Patti Austin, Boney James, Peter White, Kirk Whalum and Dave Koz.  For this orchestral project, the respected guitarist called on a number of Los Angeles legendary jazz players to join him in the studio.  See the impressive list above.

You will enjoy the Standring interpretation of “How Insensitive,” with the orchestra arranged and conducted by Geoff Gascoyne.  The orchestrated portion of this album was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.  Other lovely, nostalgic tunes you will appreciate are “Night & Day,” “Autumn in New York” and “Estaté.”   On “What A Wonderful World” vocalist Kathrin Shorr lends her talents to the mix as the strings soar and beautifully color the arrangement.  On the Standring original composition, “Sunrise” Chris features Randy Brecker on Flugelhorn during this waltz-tempo’d ballad.  Other gems are “My Foolish Heart,” “Alfie,” and the jazz standard, “Green Dolphin Street.”  He also covers the Donald Fagen tune, “Maxine.”  This is easy-listening jazz at its best.  Dim the lights, flame the candles and cuddle up with this beautiful album of familiar songs.

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THE PAXTON/SPANGLER SEPTET CD – “ANTHEM FOR THE NEW NATION” – Eastlawn Records

Tbone Paxton, trombone/co-leader; RJ Spangler, congas/percussion/co-leader; Phillip J. Hale, piano/fender Rhodes/electric piano; Sean Perlmutter/drums; Jeff Cuny, elec. & acoustic basses; Daniel Bennett, tenor saxophone; Rafael Leafar, alto saxophone/flute; Kasan Belgrave, alto saxophone; Damon Warmack, electric bass; Special guest: James O’Donnell, flugelhorn.

The Paxton/Spangler Septet is featuring the South African music of famed composer, Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand.  Both Tbone Paxton and RJ Spangler have long been infatuated with the music of South Africa. The two musicians, who founded this septet, admire such artists as Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and pianist, composer Abdullah Ibrahim.  The Tbone Paxton and RJ Spangler duo began this journey in 1980 when they formed a musical group known as the Sun Messengers Band.  This was followed by the Sun Sounds Orchestra.  Their orchestra effort was awarded Best Jazz Recording at the Detroit Music Awards in 1991.  After forming and dissolving several music ensembles, always with the desire to promote South African music, they have now released “Athem For the New Nation.”  Track 2 is the title tune of this album. Abdullah Ibrahim’s composition features a spirited alto saxophone solo by Rafael Leafar.  Track 3 is titled “Cape Town Fringe/ Mannenberg” and is based on an arrangement by Pharoah Sanders.  RJ Spangler’s percussion propels the group forward. The ensemble performs succinctly, establishing tight, African-flavored grooves for the soloists to take advantage of and to showcase each individual’s talent.  Phillip Hale opens Track 4 on piano, taking his time with the chords and introducing us slowly and emotionally to “Perfumed Forest Wet With Rain.”  I also enjoyed the flute of Rafael Leafar on this pretty ballad.  Another favorite on this album is “Moniebah” with a joyful bass solo by Jeff Cuny, who also wrote all the arrangements.  They close with the popular “Soweto” song.

Here is an album celebrating the iconic composer, Dollar Brand aka: Abdullah Ibrahim and infusing Motown groove with South African world music.

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MATT NIESS and THE CAPITOL BONES – “THE BEAT GOES ON” – Summit Records

Matt Niess, tenor trombone/arranger; Tony Nalker, piano; Shawn Purcell & Jim Roberts, guitars; Paul Henry, bass; Todd Harrison, drums; TENOR TROMBONES: Jim McFalls, Jay Gibble & Zach Niess.  BASS TROMBONES: Jerry Amoury, Jeff Cortazzo & Matt Neff.

Matt Niess and The Capitol Bones shuffle their way into my listening space with the familiar Sonny Bono song, “The Beat Goes On.”   It’s full of spunk and funk.   Matt Niess is a trombonist based in Washington, D.C., who played with the U.S. Army Band for over thirty years.  He was also a member of the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble and the US Army Brass Quintet.  On this recording, he is joined by some of the best jazz musicians in the Nation’s capital and they swing hard!  During the fade of this arrangement, the guitarist, Shawn Purcell, trades fours with Matt Niess’ trombone. Todd Harrison is spectacular throughout, taking a brilliant bow at the very end, with flashing drum sticks and admirable drum skills crashing into a crescendo of rhythm. 

“The Capitol Bones inaugural performance was in a restaurant called Firenzi’s in Arlington, VA; 1990, … not long after I joined the U.S. Army Band.  Our first big concert was the International Trombone Festival at the Eastman School of Music in 1991, after winning the Kai Winding Competition sponsored by the International Trombone Association.  The competition was the impetus that motivated me to forge the group into a trombone band like no other,” Matt Niess sang the praises of his band.

This is the long awaited fourth album for the renowned Capitol Bones.  Group founder and leader, Matt Niess, has every right to feel proud and enthusiastic about this recording.  It is absolutely terrific. The level of musicality and uniqueness is ‘off the charts;’ literally.  Matt’s arranging skills are also on parade and richly sparkle.

Matt arranged a well-known work in the trombone world that’s called “Two Pieces for Three Trombones.” He arranged it originally in 2010, for the Eastern Trombone Workshop (known now as the American Trombone Workshop).  For this recording, Niess expanded it to five bones and it’s become one of three bonus tracks included on this project.  Part two of this suite of music is actually called “Episode” and stands alone as track two on the album. The drums give the piece an Afro-Cuban feel, then part the curtains so that Jim McFalls can step through and solo on his tenor trombone.  The electric guitar makes an amazing statement on his own. Purcell steals the spotlight briefly away from the trombones and thoroughly entertains us. 

Pat Metheny composed “Song for Bilbao” and the trombones sound fat and full at the introduction of this piece.  Metheny’s tune features Jim Roberts on guitar.  “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love,” written by Mingus, is beautifully performed and aside from the awesome harmonies of the trombones, pianist Tony Nalker is given ample time to show off his musical skills. 

Here is an album packed with musicality and a variety of songs and arrangements that will thrill and entertain you.  Take for instance the harmonics on “Yesterday” that ring dynamic and memorable.

Matt Niess adds a couple of his original compositions for good measure.  One is titled “Fanfare for the Capitol Bones” and it reminds me of a freight train plowing down the tracks. Niess combines traditional jazz with a contemporary perspective, sparking the song with funk drums and playing his trombone with gusto.  The guitarist adds electronic rhythm to the piece and brings the element of fusion along with him.  There’s a Medley of music from ‘Chicago’ including “Make Me Smile,” “The Approaching Storm” and “Man vs. Man” and another original composition from Neiss titled, “Felicity.”   If variety is the spice of life, and you’re prone to unique experiences, sprinkle this music liberally onto your CD player and enjoy.

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GENERATIONS – “THE BAYLOR PROJECT” – Be A Light

PRINCIPLES: Jean Baylor, vocals/background vocals/composer/arranger/ hand claps/stomps; Marcus Baylor, drums/percussion/hand claps/stomps/arranger; Shedrick Mitchell, piano/organ/Wurlitzer /Fender Rhodes/ arranger; Terry Brewer, piano/organ; Dezron Douglas, Richie Goods & Ben Williams, upright bass; D. J. Ginyard, electric bass; Rayfield ‘Ray Ray’ Holloman, lap steel guitar/guitar; Marvin Sewell, guitar/slide guitar/acoustic guitar; Pablo Batista & Aaron Draper, percussion; Stephanie Alvarenga, vocal contractor/arranger background vocals/claps & stomps; Linny Smith, Sheherazade Holman, background vocals/claps & stomps; Pastor Paul James, background vocals; Keith Loftis, tenor & soprano saxophone; Korey Riker, tenor saxophone; Freddie Hendrix, trumpet/flugelhorn; Mark Williams, trombone; Christopher Michael Stevens, horn contractor/trumpet; Aaron ‘Goody’ Goode, trombone; STRINGS: Darin Atwater & Geoffrey Keezer, arrangers; Lady jess, strings   contractor/violin l; Sara Caswell & Janina Norpoth, violin l; Orlando Wells, Frederique Gnaman & Ling Ling Huang, violin ll; Susan Mandel, cello; Celia Hatton, viola; SPECIAL GUESTS: Kenny Garrett, alto saxophone; Dianne Reeves & Jazzmeia Horn, lead vocals; Jamison Ross, lead vocals/background vocals; Sullivan Fortner, piano/arranger; Apostle Larry J. Baylor, preacher; Mother Mattie Baylor, Mother Joan Norris, Eric Roberson, Dana Johnson, Avery Sunshine, Evertt & Tamia Perry, Uncle James Arthur & Aunt Cassandra Medley, spoken word.

The opening tune Strivin’ is spirited and sounds like something Aretha Franklin would sing.  The vocalist, Jean Baylor, is strong and rooted in gospel music.  This original song features the soulful horn of Kenny Garrett, however that doesn’t necessarily make this jazz.  Instead, it’s very strong Rhythm & Blues.  “Happy to be With You” continues in the same vein, with the blood of rhythm and blues pumping the tune happily along.  The band’s messages of love and family are prominent with powerful harmonic horns that sound like the days of ‘Tower of Power’ or ‘Earth, Wind & Fire.’  Both of these gold record groups combined music genres, blending R&B, Pop and Jazz.  The Baylor production takes a turn with “Love Makes Me Sing,” a beautiful ballad with strings soaring in the background and Keith Loftis sounds complimentary and jazzy on saxophone.   Shedrick Mitchell at the piano adds his jazzy touch to the production.  Jean Baylor’s voice is sweet honey in the comb on this project.   Her voice is soulful, emotional and hypnotic.  As “The Baylor Project” presents a mixed genre of music, it’s Jean’s voice that ties the package together like bright, colorful ribbons.  On the song “2020” they dip deeply into the biscuits, gravy and goodness of gospel music.  Jean and Marcus Baylor have written and arranged a dozen compositions for our listening pleasure and each song is well written and compelling.  Jean Baylor puts lyrics to Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes.”  Storytelling has always been central to the Baylor Project’s creative output.  As mentioned, their music crosses genres.  While most of it is rooted in R&B, on the seventh tune she features Jazzmeia Horn and Dianne Reeves, (two of my favorite jazz vocalists) and the project moves into pure jazz.  Marcus Baylor’s drums lock the ‘swing’ into place and Sullivan Fortner’s piano is outstanding as a strong support tool.  Sullivan is a musical master in his own right.

The beauty about much of today’s younger generational music is the cross-over appeal and the creative blending of genres.  This ensemble expands the term ‘jazz’ to new levels.  Their music is exceptionally well written, expertly arranged and, in addition, there is a strong element of spirituality and believability incorporated into their songwriting. I also must mention and applaud the fact that they employed live ‘strings’ and not a keyboard replica.  Listening to their music, I hear a hopeful spirit that prevails and uplifts.  So many people play well, but it takes a certain commitment, sometimes referred to as the ‘IT’ factor, along with talent to deliver music that inspires and heals.  “Generations” is one such project that will make you happy and hopeful.

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SARAH WILSON – “KALEIDOSCOPE” – Brass Tonic Records

Sarah Wilson, trumpet/vocals; Myra Melford, piano; Jerome Harris, bass; John Schott, guitar; Matt Wilson, drums; Charles Burnham, violin.

A lone trumpet blares, directing our attention to the tone of Sarah Wilson’s instrument and her latest project titled, “Kaleidoscope.”  The piano sounds like bottle chimes blowing in a rainstorm.  Charles Burnham’s violin brings another voice that handsomely harmonizes with Wilson’s horn.  Her melody repeats and burns into our brains.  This original composition by Sarah Wilson is titled, “Aspiration” and is dedicated to Renee Baldocchi, who was Director of Public Programs at San Francisco’s de Young Museum when Wilson met her.  Aspiration is one of a dozen original songs Wilson has penned for this production.

“This record is about the people who have supported me,” Wilson explains the dedication above.

As the album title implies, “Kaleidoscope” embraces multiple views, colors and personalities.  This is not strictly jazz, but a combination of genres inclusive of Afro-Latin grooves, Indie rock and something her publicist calls Avant-pop.  “Color” is a song she dedicates to Paul Caputo, another supporter, music mentor and Schoenberg scholar.  This composition reminds me somewhat of South African music, with the strong melody introduced by horns and the guitar of John Schott.  Myra Melford is given time to explore improvisation on her piano and Matt Wilson’s drums hold the music rhythmically in place. 

Wilson’s compositions are melody-rooted, with repeatable, simple lines that are easily remembered. After I read that she had spent much time working in the Bread and Puppet Theater, later expanding her Visiting Artist role to work with a giant-puppet production for two years, and finally becoming an arranger, conductor and performing musician during puppet shows, her musical vision became clearer to me.  Her music is not complex.  However, it is sometimes on the verge of Avant-garde.  She’s a fairly new composer, singing and writing her original songs beginning in 2000, after the loss of her mother.

“My mom died that year and I gave up the trumpet. …  Songwriting was distracting; soothing as I was dealing with this terrible loss in my life.  I felt relaxed doing it.  It’s another avenue for my music to travel down,” Sarah Wilson explained how she came to composing.

In 1993, after Wilson moved to New York City to specifically concentrate on music, she studied with John McNeil and Laurie Frink.  Wilson released her first album in 2006 (Imaginary Play) and followed that up with 2010s Trapeze Project. When not recording, she develops programs for museums and institutions.  Her latest project is a music production for The Tenderloin Museum.  Collaborating with Larkin Street Youth Services, an organization serving homeless youth that is based in one of San Francisco’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods, “Tenderloin Voices” brings their stories to life through writing workshops and musical performances. 

This music doesn’t shuffle or swing.  It showcases simplistic melodies and Ms. Wilson is then dependent on her musical ensemble to do much of the improvisation we expect in a jazz production.  She is not a jazz singer.  Perhaps she explains her musicality best when reflecting on her days as Musical Director and Composer of Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival’s Annual Puppet Program.

“At the time, I didn’t really have any formal training or experience composing.  I didn’t know much harmony, so I would just write these melodic bass lines and layer contrapuntal melodies on top of them,” she explained in her press package.  “I’ve formally studied music since then, but my basic composing approach hasn’t changed much.”

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MICHAEL MANTLER – “CODA ORCHESTRA SUITES” – ECM Records

Michael Mantler, trumpet/composer; Christoph Cech, orchestra conductor; David Helbock, piano; Maximilian Kanzler, vibraphone/marimba; Bjarne Roupé, guitar; Tibor Kovesdi & Philipp Kienberger, double bass; Asja Valcic & Arne Kircher, violoncello; Simon Schellnegger, Anna Magdalena Siakala, Daniel Moser & Tamara Stajner, viola; Joanna Lewis, Ulrike Greuter, Diane Pascal, Tomas Novak, Simon Frick, Maximilian Bratt, Magdalena Zenz & Emily Stewart, violin; Leo Eibensteiner, flute; Peter Tavernaro, oboe; David Lehner, clarinet; Fabian Rucker, bass clarinet; Christoph Walder, French horn, Daniel Riegler, trombone; Simon Teurezbacher, tuba.

“Coda” is a summary; a concluding statement of material selected from past work.  Michael Mantler (born in Vienna in 1943) has always found inspiration while listening to his early work and compositions.  That’s why he has titled this new release “Coda Orchestra Suites” because, although it’s newly written music, it is also music developed from past works.

“… Almost always, when I start a new composition, I begin with materials from previous work. More often than not that procedure would spark or beget a new line of musical thought from which to continue,” Michael Mantler explains.

“Twothirteen Suite” opens this piece of orchestrated art.  It’s a dramatic piece with plenty of crescendos and soaring string lines.  A tenacious bass line storms beneath the orchestra’s powerful statement.  Mantler has composed all of the music.  It’s European classical to the max.  During eleven minutes and forty-one second of this first song, I don’t hear any jazz at all.  

“I have always considered myself an orchestral composer,” says Michael Mantler. “Even when circumstances dictated smaller ensembles. This time I did not retain the original instrumentation but settled on what seems to be my current favorite – a chamber orchestra consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, french horn, trombone, tuba, guitar, piano, marimba/vibraphone, plus a string section…” the composer says.

Even though Michael Mantler has included brief solos by himself on trumpet, by pianist David Helbock and Bjarne Roupé featured on guitar, the majority of the players are classical musicians who are reading music that is clearly orchestral.  Although quite beautiful, the premise of jazz is lost.  Why?  Because jazz is the music of freedom.  It expands on a theme and the players are encouraged to improvise. Also, Jazz swings!  Jazz shuffles!  Sometimes it can be totally free, like Avant-garde jazz.  Even when jazz is contemporary with fusion tones and funk drums, or transformed from Rhythm and Blues into smooth jazz, it still exhibits elements of freedom and transformation.  American jazz is our countries classical art form, created by African Americans and born out of struggle and a longing to be free.  As a jazz reviewer, although this music is beautifully orchestrated, I just cannot call this album jazz. 

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