It’s always a pleasure to hear another world–class big band, especially one from overseas. This is our third encounter with Rainer Tempel’s 18–member ensemble which proves beyond any reasonable doubt on Melodies of ’98
that it can hold its own in any company. Brass, reeds and rhythm are robust and incisive, soloists as keen and resourceful as any you’re likely to hear. Technique, of course, is only half the equation; the other half is personality, and what set the band apart from many of its peers are Tempel’s well–framed charts, which lend uncommon freshness and charm to the band’s natural talents. Tempel arranged every number and composed all but two — “Miles Away” by Claus Stötter and “Abendlich . . .” by guitarist Frank Möbus. All are modern in the best sense of the word. One need only listen to the gorgeous passages for reeds and brass that introduce “I Know You Know” to understand that Tempel knows how to write for a big band. There are further stimulating verses for the ensemble on “Miles Away,” underscored by trumpeter Thomas Siffling’s Davis–like musings, and on “Ohne Worte 1,” with trumpets and saxophones voicing its lovely melody before stepping aside for impressive solos by trumpeter Axel Schlosser and soprano saxophonist Florian Trübsbach. The trombone section is front and center on “Oslo Sun,” a medium–tempo groover whose solo acreage is tenderly cultivated by Eberhard Budziat. “Abendlich . . .,” perhaps the most adventurous item on the agenda, is a showcase for Möbus whose guitar is sometimes mellow but more often raspy and nettlesome. “Melodies of ’98” (already, the session is dated) sways to a funky Bob Mintzer–like beat, not entirely Latin but hardly norteamericano
either, building in intensity behind vigorous solos by soprano Frank Lauber, trumpeter Sebastian Studnitzky and tenor Mark Wyand. The album opens with another funky exercise, “3x3,” which introduces Wyand’s slashing tenor and Schlosser’s fiery trumpet, and closes with a shorter (and entirely different) version of “Ohne Worte,” this one featuring Frank Eberle’s unaccompanied piano. Tempel has brought together an outstanding ensemble, and these Melodies are as likable as they are rewarding. The album may be hard to locate (see address below), but it’s worth the effort.
Track listing: 3x3; I Know You Know; Miles Away; Ohne Worte 1; Oslo Sun; Abendlich . . .; Melodies of ’98; Ohne Worte 2 (56:08).