One of the highest compliments I can pay the Poleiziorchester Hamburg is to say the ensemble reminds me of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass. The charts are dissimilar, as one would expect on a tribute to Louis Armstrong, but there's the same aura of understated elegance and casual selfassurance that one hears from the Brass, as director Kristine Kresge uses horns, clarinets, piccolo, flute, oboe and even a banjo to augment the usual trumpets, trombones, reeds and rhythm and add splashes of color to the splendid arrangements, all but one by D. Mensinger or M. Honetschläger. While the songs may evoke memories of Armstrong, this is Satchmo in contemporary clothing, as the Poleiziorchester takes the largely familiar themes and remodels them to suit the temperament of a modern big band. Elements of trad Jazz are skillfully woven into the tapestry, as for example on "Royal Garden Blues," but Armstrong would no doubt have been taken aback by Steve Gray's slowpaced arrangement of "Hello Dolly" on which American expatriate Jiggs Whigham offers a master class in advanced trombone. Whigham is featured as well on "When You're Smiling," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," with vocalist Cynthia Utterbach on "Stars Fell on Alabama" and with British trumpet star Gerard Presencer on "Basin Street." Presencer, whose luminous tone and marvelous technique never fail to impress, is heard again on "Cornet Chop Suey," "West End Blues," "Hotter Than That" and (backing Utterbach) on "St. Louis Blues" and "What a Wonderful World," the last on flugelhorn. The Polizeiorchester has several topnotch soloists of its own, most notably flugel Andrzej Balsam (featured on "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans"), tenor Michael Rossberg ("West End Blues," "A Foggy Day"), alto Oreste Kindilde ("A Foggy Day"), trumpeters Balsam and Rolf Toschka ("King of the Zulus"), clarinetist Atila Sarkezi ("Cornet Chop Suey," "West End Blues") and trombonist Andreas Hussong ("Cornet Chop Suey," with Sarkezi and Toschka on "Royal Garden Blues"). I'd love to have listed complete personnel but the Poleiziorchester slapped its contact information over the list, making a couple of names unreadable. If I can't list 'em all I won't list any, as that would be unfair to those whose names were omitted. Be that as it may, this is an impressive tribute album by a brightly burnished contemporary ensemble that conveys the spirit if not the style of the incomparable Louis Armstrong.
Track Listing: When You're Smiling; Cornet Chop Suey; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; St. Louis Blues; West End Blues; Hello, Dolly; King of the Zulus; Basin Street; Royal Garden Blues; Stars Fell on Alabama; A Foggy Day; Hotter Than That; Struttin' with Some Barbecue; What a Wonderful World (59:54).
Personnel: The Polizeiorchester Hamburg, Dr. Kristine Kresge, director. Guest artists - Jiggs Whigham, trombone; Gerard Presencer, trumpet, Cynthia Utterbach, vocals.