James Choice Orchestra: Live At Moers (2008)
Arguably one of the first concerns arising from any 23-piece ensemble is the sheer number of participants. In the case of the James Choice Orchestra, however, the issue of unwieldiness doesn't arise. The depth of compositional touch is such that it surmounts such a problem and the result is music of great variety and timbre.
These points are arguably best exemplified by Frank Gratkowski's "Choice III" where the impression is of the ensemble being broken down into small, almost compressed units, especially when the parade ground pastiche of Joe Hertenstein's drums seem to be shaping the music from the bottom up. The multi-textual nature of the piece is emphasized in the work of a sadly unaccredited trumpet soloist in a passage which comes as close as anything here to overtly acknowledging established precedent.
This is not entirely unprecedented music however. It's simply the fact of the matter that what's happening here is part of a still open-ended continuum instigated by the likes of the London Jazz Composers and Globe Unity Orchestra. As such the realization of Carl Ludwig Hubsch's "Floating Fragments" is as much as anything else here, a testament to a finely honed ensemble, one cognizant with the fact that roughness and the avoidance of studied finesse can be highly effective tools in music making. There is thus nothing of what might be called the primacy of the composer or his ideas and that in itself is rife with political implications. At base, this is profoundly democratic music, and to the point at which not even the soloist reigns supreme, a point underscored by the overall program, where soloists are conspicuous only by their absence.
Even silence or near-silence has a part to play, so profoundly inclusionist is the music in the case of Matthias Schubert's "Manico con la mia" where perhaps even the idea of the large ensemble itself is subverted. In the deployment of small sounds set against atonal blasts and the odd scream from one of the vocalists the music proceeds through a rare form of fractious logic and to a greater or lesser extent, that's true of the entire program.
Track Listing: Floating Fragments; Berichte aus der neuen Stadt; Choice III; Manico con la mia.
Personnel: Stefan Meinberg: trumpet; Thomas Heberer: trumpet; Udo Moll: trumpet; Matthias Mainz: trumpet; Matthias Muche: trombone; Nikolao Valiensi: trombone; Carl Ludwig Hubsch: tuba, composition; Melvyn Poore: tuba; Frank Gratkowski: alto sax, clarinets, composition; Matthias Schubert: tenor sax, composition; Norbert Stein: tenor sax, composition; Niels Kline: tenor sax, clarinets; Annette Maye: clarinet, bass clarinet; Philip Zoubek: piano; Thomas Lehn: synthesizer; Scott Fields: guitar; Tom Lorenz: vibes; Radek Stawartz: violin; Scott Roller: cello; Sebastian Gramss: bass; Joe Hertenstein: drums; Barbara Schachtner: vocal, voice; Isis Kruger: voice.