After nearly a ten-year break, composer/arranger/conductor Vince Mendoza returned with the Grammy-nominated Blauklang (ACT, 2008). As if intuiting that another decade-long gap would be excessive, he's back a year later with El Viento: The García Lorca Projectthis time focusing primarily on conducting a group of guests alongside Holland's Metropole Orchestra, for whom he's been chief conductor and artistic leader. Much in the spirit of his earlier Jazzpaña (ACT, 1993), El Viento explores the marriage of Spanish musicin particular, flamencowith jazz, but on a considerably larger scale. As ambitious as Epiphany (Zebra, 1999), it's perhaps even more so in its successful unearthing of nexus points previously undiscovered.
Mendoza may have arranged only four of the dozen tunes, but his imprint remains stamped across the album. The Metropole Orchestra is the only full-time symphonic jazz orchestra in the world, combining symphony instrumentation with big band brass and a tremendous rhythm section. It provides Mendoza the latitude to use boldly sweeping orchestration on "La Tarara," a traditional tune that, over the course of nearly nine minutes, runs the gamut from passionate solo flamenco guitar (by guest soloist Daniel Méndez) and symphonic tone poem to Rafael de Utrera's cathartically folkloric singing. "De Los Cuatros Muleros" strays closer to clear jazz, with a swinging pulse from Metropole's rhythm section bolstered by a powerful big band arrangement juxtaposed with gentler orchestral colors. "Sevillanas del Siglo XVIII" leans to the classical, with singer Eva de Dios supported by an orchestra that also features Udo Demandt (cajón), Arturo Ramón (palmas) and Daniel Navarro (dancing), all of which ensure the piece remains tied to the flamenco tradition.
Stemming from a project begun by poet, playwright and erstwhile pianist Federico García Lorca (1989-1936), the concept of bringing together a collection of Spanish folksongs took on greater weight in the late '70s, when flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla set a number of Lorca's poems to music for the remarkable La Layenda del Tiempo (Polygram, 2000), a landmark flamenco album where indigenous music was fused with everything from electric guitars to sitars. With Dutch bassist/pianist/composer Niko Langenhuijsen picking up the thread in the '90s, an ambitious production was mounted in 1998 to celebrate the centennial of Lorca's birth. As successful as the venture was, it was never recorded until Mendoza expressed interest a decade later.
Perhaps El Viento's most remarkable aspect is its seamless stylistic cross-pollination. "La Canción del Mariquita," featuring Metropole's electric guitarist Peter Tiehuis, could easily fit with Pat Metheny
's expansively orchestral Secret Story (1992/reissued Nonesuch, 2007). Still, Metheny's classic may be broad in scope, but it can't approach Mendoza's remarkable integration of everything from authentic flamenco and small/large jazz ensemble to effervescent classicism. Few but Mendoza and Metropole could pull it off, making El Viento: The García Lorca Project as revolutionary as La Layenda del Tiempo; an album that reveres all the traditions from which it culls, but then dispenses with them to create a masterpiece of cross-cultural fusion all its own.
Track Listing: La Canción del Mariquita; Historietas del Viento I: El Viento; Historietas del Viento II: Viento Estancado; Historietas del Viento III: La Brisa; La Tarara; De Los Cuatros Muleros; Sevillanas del Siglo XVIII; La Nana del Caballo Grande; Los Peregrinitos; Angeles Negros; Los Mozos de Monleón; La Layenda del Tiempo.
Personnel: Vince Mendoza: conductor; Rafael de Utrera: vocals; Eva de Dios: vocals; Daniel Méndez: guitar; Udo Demandt: cajón; Arturo Ramón: palmas; Daniel Navarro: dancing. Choir: Jennifer Barnes, Cindy Bourquin, ELin Carlson. The Metropole Orchestra: Arlia de Ruiter: 1st violin; Vera Laporeva: 1st violin; Sarah Koch: 1st violin; Denis Koenders: 1st violin; Linda Dumessie: 1st violin; Erica Korthals Altes: 1st violin; David Peijinborgh: 1st violin; Sieja Teeuwen: 1st violin; Laurie Vreeken-Bos: 1st violin; Merijin Rombout: 2nd violin; Herman van Haaren t: 2nd violin; Lucja Domski t: 2nd violin; Wim Kok t: 2nd violin; Elizabeth Liefkes-Cats t: 2nd violin; Marianne van den Heuvel t: 2nd violin; Polina Cekov t: 2nd violin; Mieke Honingh: viola; Julia Jowelt: viola; Iris Schut: viola; Lex Luijnenburg: viola; Alex Welch: viola; Bastiaan van der Werf: cello; Maarten Jansen: cello; Emile Visser: cello; Annie Tangberg: cello; Jascha Albracht: cello; Wim Grin: cello; Arend Liefkes: contrabass; Jaap Branderhorst: contrabass; Annemieke Marinkovic: contrabass; Janine Abbas: flute; Mariel van den Bos: flute; Willlem Luijt: bassoon; Jan Willem van der Ham: bassoon; Willem Liujt: oboe; Marc Sholten: saxophone; Paul vcan der Feen: saxophone; Leo Janssen: saxophone; Jos Beeren: saxophone; Max Boeree: saxophone; Petra Botma-Zijlstra: horn in F; Hans van der Zanden: horn in F; Joeri di Vente: horn in F; Roel Koster; horn in F; Jelle Schouten: trumpet; Jan Hollander: trumpet; Henk Heijink: trumpet; Ruud Breus: trumpet; Bart van Lier: trombone; Jan Oosting: trombone; Jan Bastiani: trombone;Martin van den Berg: bass trombone; Murk Jiskoot: percussion; Frank Wardenier: percussion; Efrain Toro: percussion (3, 4); Joke Schonewille: harp; Hans Vroomans: piano; Peter Tiehuis: electric guitar; Aram Kersbergen: bass; Arno van Nieuwenhuize: drums.