Jim Beard: Revolutions (2009)
Few big band music is as exiting and swings with such abandon as the music played by the various incarnations of ensembles that gather together in the name of Charles Mingus, and that played by bands sometimes assembled by Carla Bley and, of course, the music directed by the one and only Maria Schneider. And then there is this music written by Jim Beard and performed by him and a few guests but largely directed by the magisterial Vince Mendoza, conducting the Netherlands-based, 90-piece Metropole Orchestra. Revolutions is a suite of ten songs that journey individually from various tonal centers outward in swirling circles that traverse a myriad tonal colors each time that Beard and the Metropole Orchestra embarks on each musical journey.
Beard is first and foremost a composer of the highest artistic skill. His approach to music is primarily through the classic elements of song. This gives every composition a form. He must then shape the form by twisting the melody and imbuing it with challenging harmonies so that it can take on a shape and life of its own. In using an approach that is ostensibly amorphous Beard lets the inner rhythms of his melodies unfold ingeniously. Beard is also a master of tonal understatement. Yet his music has appeal for a variety of instruments, because it is harmonically rich and lends itself to strings and horns and large groups of percussion instruments. He thinks like a colorist and so the music that he produces comes richly layered with a myriad tones and rhythmic textures. This is the same quality once that marked Jaco Pastoriusespecially when he produced his unforgettable Word of Mouth (Warner Bros., 1981).
Beard's music here is down to earth and echoes with the memory of events that may have been memorable at one time. "Holiday for Pete & Gladys," is one such worka kind of retro short story. There are philosophical moments in the richly layered "Hope" that drives the music from dark to light. Beard can also be delightfully quirky as he is in the Eastern-driven rhythmic "Lost at the Carnival," and spacey and impressionistic with "Holodeck Waltz," an almost oblique whiz past a richly imagined time and place. The classic waltz is recast here with a stop-start rhythm that makes it wholly new. The rest of the set is no less memorable and the resultant suite impresses like an immense passacaglia thanks in no small measure to the musicians who journey with Beard, especially Mendoza.
True the band here comprises musicians familiar with Beard's workguitarist Jon Herrington, who shines on the sketch of "Diana." And so does soprano saxophonist Bill Evans who is mesmerizing on "Parsley Trees" and "Trip." And then there is the artistry of Mendoza, who has expanded the music to by adding the rich concentric tonal values to the music with his magical touch and the artistry of Holland's Metropole Orchestra.
Track Listing: Holiday for Pete & Gladys; Hope; Diana; Lost at the Carnival; Holodeck Waltz; Princess; In All Her Finery; Parsley Trees; Trip; Crossing Troll Bridge.
Personnel: Jim Beard: piano, synthesizer, composer; Bob Malach: tenor saxophone; Ruud Breuls: trumpet; Jon Herington: guitar; Paul van der Feen: soprano saxophone; Bar van Lier: trombone; Bill Evans: soprano saxophone; Leo Janssen: tenor saxophone; Marcio Doctor: Latin and ethnic percussion; The Metropole Orchestra; Vince Mendoza: conductor.