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Big Band Caravan

Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra / 9th+Lincoln / Georg Riedel / VCU Jazz / Bobby Vince Paunetto / Klas Lindquist

By Published: June 16, 2008
Georg Riedel / Swedish Radio Jazz Group
Wolfgang on My Mind
Phono Suecia

The first part of this CD by composer / arranger Georg Riedel and the Swedish Radio Jazz Group was recorded in 1967-68, the second ("Wolfgang on My Mind") in 1991. Besides Wolfgang, there are two other suites, or tone poems, "Arstiderna" (The Seasons) from 1967, and the three-movement "Johan Petter," recorded the following year.

Even forty years ago, Riedel (who at that time was still playing bass, and does so on the earlier tracks) had a clear vision of what he wanted to write, which was expansive music with classical overtones and a Scandinavian flavor that also swung. Thankfully, he had in the SRJG a number of like-minded musicians who have distinguished themselves in Swedish jazz circles for a number of years including trumpeter Jan Allan, alto saxophonist Arne Domnerus, tenor Lennart Aberg, flutist Claes Rosendahl, guitarist Rune Gustafsson, pianist Jan Johansson and drummer Egil Johansen, each of whom is given room to stretch on the earlier selections.

In 1991, when the five-part suite inspired by Mozart was recorded, much of the SRJG's personnel was new—except for Allan and Aberg, who, remarkably, were still on the scene and playing as smartly as ever on "Wolfgang" whose movements are denoted by the classical terms "Andante Sostenuto," "Andante," "Menuetto," "Andante con Moto" and "Presto." To them, Riedel has appended the following notes: "Andante" (but not walking), "Menuetto" (but not in 3/4 time). The other soloists on "Wolfgang" are alto saxophonist Johan Alenius, trombonist Nils Landgren, pianist Bobo Stenson, drummer Anders Kjellberg and percussionist Bengt Stark.

With hybrids all the rage these days, Riedel was arguably ahead of his time, composing music that is part Jazz, part classical, thus taking a page from the book of Gil Evans and others who have chosen that trendsetting path. If there is a complaint to be made, it is that there is not quite enough of either—that is to say, the Jazz is tempered by its classical elements, and vice versa. On the other hand, the SRJG is an excellent "small big band," so there's never a question of merit. The verdict must then rest, as it usually does, on one's personal musical taste.

VCU Jazz
A Joyful Noise
Mark Records

A Joyful Noise is the sixth album produced by Virginia Commonwealth University's Jazz Studies department, the second under director Antonio Garcia, and the first recorded entirely in concert. As on its previous release, the VCU Faculty Jazz Septet is showcased on two selections, the undergrad Small Jazz Ensemble (sextet) on one, Jazz Orchestra 1 on the remaining seven. To enliven the bill of fare, there are splendid turns by renowned trombonist Wycliffe Gordon ("Green Onions," "Beyond All Limits"), world-class saxophonist and VCU alum Steve Wilson (soprano on his ebullient "Joyful Noise," alto on "Limits") and faculty member Rex Richardson (trumpet on "Limits" and "The Core," flugelhorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Bright Moments"). While each of them is superb, Gordon's extended a cappella solo on "Onions," using every aspect of the trombone's range and color, is especially impressive.

As one of Garcia's motives is to prepare his apprentices for any musical challenges they may encounter, the large ensemble faces down and vanquishes charts by composers as disparate as Sammy Nestico ("Ya Gotta Try") and Charles Mingus ("Don't Be Afraid, the Clown's Afraid, Too"), Woody Shaw ("Limits") and Oliver Nelson ("Black, Brown & Beautiful," on which alto saxophonist Jon Gibson is featured). Garcia arranged Ray Santos' Latin powerhouse, "Sunny Ray," and lends his trombone to the Faculty Septet on "Bright Moments" and Freddie Hubbard's "Core," soloing on the latter. Richardson and tenor Skip Gailes are outstanding on the lyrical "Moments," while Victor Dvoskin's unaccompanied bass introduces the boppish "Core."

Seven numbers were recorded at the Midwest Band Clinic in December 2007, the others at VCU's Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall whose acoustics are far more agreeable than on the ensemble's previous CD, It Could Happen to You. As we asserted then, Garcia and the VCU Jazz Orchestra are definitely on the right track. The ensemble is admirable, the soloists respectable, the smaller groups tight and focused. A sparkling session by a first-class undergraduate orchestra and guests.

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