For nearly a decade, Swinging Europe has given young musicians from across the continent a chance to play together for one summer month, traveling all over Europe as members of the European Jazz Youth Orchestra. Each year a new composer is chosen to conduct the orchestra. The conductor has always been Europeanuntil now. Breaking with tradition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) named Canadian Vic Vogel to lead the orchestra on its 2005 tour, which included concerts in Montréal and Gatineau. Although he was born in Canada and is one of that country's most celebrated composer/arrangers, Vogel has deep European roots (his parents emigrated to Canada from Hungary).
As the conductor chooses the orchestra's composition and repertoire, Vogel decided on a sixteen-piece ensemble which would pay tribute to Montréal's most renowned jazz artist, pianist Oscar Peterson. Plans were made to record the EJYO during its May '05 concert in Gatineau, resulting in an album that has almost everythingsplendid charts by Vogel (four) and Peterson (seven), inspired blowing by the ensemble, and incisive comments by a number of (unnamed) soloists. Regrettably, what it lacks is a clean, well-balanced sound, which could be due in part to the acoustics of the concert hall, in part to the recording equipment and techniques. Whatever the cause or causes, the bottom line is that it appreciably impairs the overall performance, which is in most other respects impressive.
One certainly can't fault the music. Vogel and Peterson are masterful writers whose charming songs serve as much more than mere preambles for the soloists. Vogel's four compositions come first, opening with a showcase for tenor sax, "Stormy Vetter, presumably written for Pat Vetter, the tenor soloist in Vogel's own band. The tenor in this case is either Niels Kline or Anders Lønne Grønseth, while the featured alto on "Windmill (aka "Sweet Georgia Brown ) is either Ari Jokenainen or Magnus Thuelund.
And so it goes throughout, although I can say with assurance that's baritone Blaz Trcek breathing fire on Peterson's "The Smudge ; pianist Peter Rosendal, bassist Christian Wendt and drummer Calle Rasmussen taking crowd-pleasing turns on the dynamic "Place St-Henri ; and trombonist Intars Busulis scatting audaciously on Vogel's groovy "Song for Cootie. Rosendal is showcased again on Peterson's soulful "Requiem/Hymn to Freedom and the bright and playful finale, "Oscar's Boogie.
An ambiguous appraisal. If it weren't for the below-average sound, this delightful Hommage would earn a superior rating. As it is, a low grade for sound quality, high marks for everything else.
Track Listing: Stormy Vetter; Windmill; Song for Cootie; Vanessa; The Smudge; Wheat Land; Nightingale;
When Summer Comes; Place St-Henri; Requiem/Hymn to Freedom; Oscars Boogie (74:01).
Personnel: Vic Vogel: composer, arranger, conductor; Dragoslav Stanisavljevich(Serbia): Dominykas
Vysniavskas (Lithuania): Lukas Koudelka (Czech Republic): Jocelyn Lapointe (Canada):
trumpet; Ari Jokelainen (Finland): Magnus Thuelund (Denmark): alto sax; Niels Klein
(Germany): Anders Lønne Grønseth (Norway): tenor sax; Blaz Trcek (Slovenia): baritone
sax; Samuel Blaser (Switzerland), Gábor Barbinek (Hungary): trombone; Intars Busulis
(Latvia): trombone, scat vocals; Piotr Wrobel (Poland): bass trombone; Peter Rosendal
(Denmark): piano; Christian Wendt (Austria): bass; Calle Rasmussen (Sweden): drums.