Vaughn Wiester / Doncaster Jazz Orchestra / Kluvers Big Band / Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra
Not to be outdone, the DJO unsheathes several admirable soloists of its own. Trumpeter Sean Hollis is featured on "You Stepped Out of a Dream," tenor Ben Mallinder on Bob Florence's "Autumn," flugel Reuben Fowler on Bobby Shew's "Blue," trombonist Chris Groves on Sammy Nestico's "The Plunger." There is one vocal, by Anya Thompson (one of the ensemble's four eighteen-year-olds) on Cole Porter's "Easy to Love." Other creative improvisers include alto / soprano Mark Ellis, trombonist Stuart Garside, tenor Sarah Potts, trumpeters Tom Tait and Simon Nixon, pianist Matthew Robinson, guitarist Paul Grady and drummer Ian West. Good as they are (and they are good), the ensemble is what repeatedly captures and engages one's ear as it scurries through the various charts with equal parts enthusiasm and self-assurance.
Rounding out the tantalizing program are Oliver Nelson's undulating "Stolen Moments," McCoy Tyner's picturesque "African Village," James Hamilton's emphatic "The Jig Is Up" and Les Hooper's assertive "Back in Blue Orleans." Needless to say, the DJO easily nails every one of them. Thirty-five years old and growing stronger. Long live the DJO.
Kluvers Big Band
Other People Other Plans
Unless you follow the European jazz scene closely, chances are you've not been introduced to saxophonist Hans Ulrik whose forward-leaning compositions are showcased on the Kluvers Big Band's latest album, Other People Other Plans. Ulrik wrote and solos on all eight selections, seven of which were arranged by trumpeter Jesper Riis, "Other People" by David Springfield.
One complaint often leveled against cutting edge composers is that their themes don't swing. In many cases the accusation rings true. Happily, Ulrik's compositions are for the most part exceptions to the rule. In other words, most of them evince a sturdy rhythmic pulse, while several (notably "Tossing and Turning," "Broad Arrow," "No Nonsense," "Ramble On") swing as robustly and as often as one could desire. It helps, of course, to have at one's disposal a band as sharp and talented as Jens Kluver's Denmark-based ensemble, which could make reading the yellow pages sound awesome.
Besides being a splendid writer, Ulrik is a resourceful soloist on soprano or tenor sax, employing the former on "Fish in the Water," "Broad Arrow" and "Message Returned." The band answers with some capable ad-libbers of its own including Riis, flugel Jakob Buchanan, alto saxophonist Niels Lokkegaard, tenor Michael Bladt, trombonist Nikolai Bogelund, guitarist Soren Bo Addemos, pianist Mads Baerentzen, bassist Morten Rasmbol and drummer Espen Laub von Lillienskjold.
Other People Other Plans was recorded live at The Concert Hall, Aarhus, but there's scant evidence of that except for an occasional sprinkling of applause. Audience reaction was expunged from the end of each selection save the last, "Message Returned." Ulrik, who leads his own small groups in Denmark, had performed with the KBB before but this marks the first time he has composed for the ensemble. It's an impressive coming-out party, one in which Ulrik reveals himself as a composer and player who bears close scrutiny.
Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra
On Quake, his third recording with the New York-based Gotham Jazz Orchestra, composer / arranger Mike Holober earns high marks for inventiveness. Holober's assortment of seven tone poems is multi-hued and generally engaging, not to mention well-performed by the urbane GJO. For comparison's sake only, contemporary writers plowing roughly parallel fields include Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer, Ed Partyka, Carla Bley, Fred Stride, George Gruntz, Eliane Elias and Ed Sarath, among others.
If there are caveats, they are that, lovely as it is, a good part of the music is relatively sedate, and that some of it is so drawn out as to overstay its welcome and cause one's attention to wander. "Ruby Tuesday" shuffles along for more than 13 minutes, "Roc & a Hard Place" for more than 11, while four other tracks surpass the nine-minute mark. "Twist & Turn," at just short of eight minutes, is the briefest. On the other hand, Holober, as noted, is a first-rate composer, and many may find the placidity and duration of his themes rewarding. As for the album's title, Holober explains that Quake represents "the sound leaves make when they rustle in the wind, especially in the fall when they are dying and colorful, particularly if they are aspens." In other words, Quake isn't meant to rouse visions of the earth trembling beneath one's feet or volcanoes spewing lava on an unsuspecting populace.