The exotic title track for this big band recording opens the album with a bang. Screeching trumpets, growling trombones, and a whistling piccolo create a jungle scene that allows for the merging of contemporary orchestral music with those timbres most familiar to a big band. Individual cadenzas weave between powerful ensemble statements. Composers David Harris, Darrell Katz, Laura Andel and Warren Senders express their thoughts with the world’s music at hand.
Later, pieces that reflect mystical journeys through time, and foreboding landscapes from distant lands, appear to light the sparks of our imagination. The orchestra’s collage of improvised thoughts carries you around the world. Riverdance and boogie-woogie join spiritual and sacred music with a natural ease. They’re linked here for eternity.
Katz’s suite for Julius Hemphill brings collective improvisation and swing to the forum. Keiichi Hashimoto and Mike Peipman provide delicious trumpet work, and Norm Zocher adds a fiery guitar solo to “Texas.” Piccolo and trombone get together on a classic contrast of parallel voices, before David Harris and Bob Pilkington stretch out on an inspiring romp. Swinging slowly and deliberately, the band honors Hemphill with unique passages that swing.
What’s missing from the session is that part which matters the most: a theme. Melodies pop in and out, soloists give it their all, the musical arrangements deal in pianissimo as well as fortissimo effects, but the total picture rambles from north, south, east and west without ever establishing a foundation. This is modern music with a dramatic flair and a sizable swing attitude. But it covers a lot of territory.
Rebecca Shrimpton’s lyrical interpretation on “The Red Blues” stands apart for the heartfelt passion that she displays.
Elsewhere, the orchestra runs amok with its anxious instrumental improvisations. Collective displays of individual impressions invite each band member to pour forth with something different. Usually, that amounts to screeching and screaming with rambunctious rhythms alongside. Creative improvisation offers freedom. Sometimes, it’s a little too much freedom.
Personnel: Hiro Honshuku- flute; Jim Hobbs, Jeff Hudgins- alto saxophone; Phil Scarff- tenor saxophone; Hans Indigo- baritone saxophone; Mike Peipman, Keiichi Hashimoto- trumpet; Jim Mosher- French horn; Bob Pilkington, David Harris- trombone; Jim Gray- tuba; Art Bailey- piano; Norm Zocher- guitar; Rick McLaughlin- bass; Rich Greenblatt- vibraphone; Harvey Wirth- drums; Taki Masuko- percussion; Rebecca Shrimpton- vocal on