It’s hard to find fault with Danish based Pierre Dorge and his “New Jungle Orchestra”, as they are one of the best working bands in jazz. Released in 1997, “China Jungle” represents NJO at their best as they continue to derive cross-cultural elements and meld them into a uniquely identifiable sound, which serves as a hallmark of sorts for this band.
Dorge’s “Peking Kong” offers a big brass sound while Dorge’s “Dragon Dance” emits a Brecker Brothers-ish tight straight-ahead horn arrangement as this piece transcends into bright choruses and borderline free-jazz soling. Here, drummer Bent Clausen gradually picks up the tempo as Chinese string instruments and various percussion instruments add an appeasing Oriental feel, which becomes prevalent throughout this recording. “Magic Mystery Moon” features the angelic vocals and melodic piano choruses of Irene Becker on top of the subtle orchestrations. This piece picks up steam while Becker’s vocal prowess becomes starkly evident as her richly textured vocalizing harmonically interacts with the burgeoning horn arrangements. Here, Clausen picks up the beat with a swing motif as the intensity heats up. On this track trombonist Mads Hyhne stretches out with a warm, multi-colored trombone solo as Becker continues to scat, displaying a remarkable vocal range. Becker’s composition “Yuyuan Garden”, features a smooth trumpet solo by Kasper Tranberg as the climactic nature of the horn section brings the late Gil Evans to mind through NJO’s layered approach which is enchanting and exceptionally radiant. “Yuyuan Garden” eventually shifts gears amplified by Clausen’s firm backbeat while guitarist and leader Pierre Dorge stretches out with a thoughtful and well-executed guitar solo.
Pierre Dorge’s sharp, ringing electric guitar tone is a perfect match for this band and enhances the already colorful attributes. Dorge’s “Lions of Shanghai” is pure fun and features a fairly simple boogie motif that hints of the bygone big band era but leave it to NJO for adding guest artist Yu Jun’s Chinese harp expertise which reinvents and spins a seemingly common brass arrangement into an Oriental motif.
NJO convey a positive vibe, proficient musical craftsmanship and supreme artistry yet the extraordinary components revolve around the memorable compositions and uplifting attitude by the band. Pierre Dorge and NJO aim to entertain you, the listener. This band is supposedly “hot” as a live act as this reviewer anxiously awaits their upcoming CD. ****