David Berger Jazz Orchestra / Sheryl Bailey / UNC–Greensboro
This is especially true on more ebullient numbers ("Horizons," "Wings," "Rumi, Rumi!," "Biting Wind," "Dance"), on which the ensemble shows time and again why it is among the best Europe has to offer, skating through Strandberg's strenuous charts with comparative ease. For his part, besides composing and arranging the suite, Strandberg plays piano on the expressive "Coda" and shows he's no slouch at the keyboard either. He's one of a number of admirable soloists. Tenor saxophonist Karl-Martin Almqvist is showcased on "Horizons," "Sun Fan" and "Dance," soprano Johan Horlen on "Gnister" and "Ikaros," trumpeter Peter Asplund on "Mellanmarsch," trombonist Bertil Strandberg on "Rumi, Rumi!" Trombonist Magnus Wiklund and tenor Robert Nordmark share blowing space on "Wings," Horlen (alto) and trumpeter Karl Olandersson on "Biting Wind."
Sound and balance are exemplary, the orchestra taut and unflappable, the rhythm section (pianist Daniel Tilling, guitarist Ola Bengtsson, bassist Martin Sjostedt, drummer Jukkis Uotila, percussionist Ola Botzen) crisp and steady. Playing time is only moderate, as the suite clocks in at a few seconds under fifty minutes, less than two-thirds CD capacity. On the other hand, that's 50 minutes of first-rate music, more than many longer-playing albums contain. The choice is yours.
There's a full measure of beautiful music on this album by conductor and cellist Mats Rondin, Sweden's Isidor Chamber Orchestra and invited guests. Is it jazz? Well, there is some improvisation, and it does swing every now and then. For the most part, however, this is chamber music of a high order, superbly written by bassist Lars Danielsson or saxophonist Cennet Jonsson and adeptly interpreted by the ICO.
Jonsson composed the three-part "Scanian Suite," Danielsson the other half-dozen numbers, starting with the ethereal "Secrets," an opulent showcase for Rondin's tasteful cello. The suite follows, its three movements ("Open Fields" / "The Valley" / "Sounds of the Sound") inspired, says Jonsson, by "impressions, events and sounds" from his childhood in Helsingborg. The Fields and Valley are sleek and placid, the Sound at times jagged and turbulent. Jonsson's soprano saxophone is featured throughout with unwavering support from pianist Jacob Karlzon, bassist Johannes Lundberg and percussionist Lisbeth Diers.
The ICO is present on every number save the next one, the even-tempered "Hopeful," which is presented by a quartet comprised of pianist Jesper Nordenstrom, bassist Danielsson, drummer Anders Kjellberg and the American guitarist Mike Stern who resurfaces on the "Isidor Suite" and the throbbing and electronically enhanced "Rondin Rave." "Isidor," a lively rondo that calls to mind the composer Aaron Copland, among others, has a congruous vocal by soprano Caecile Norby, as do "Rave" and the bluesy, warm-hearted finale, "Inner Secrets." Danielsson, Nordenstrom and Kjellberg undergird the ICO on the bassist's reverential "Psalmen."
As noted, lovely music, splendidly performed. At heart, however, no more than "chamber jazz," and even that may be pressing the point. The Swedes deserve credit for dancing to their own drummer. The dance is engaging; whether to join it is a matter of personal choice.
Tracks and Personnel
Sing Me a Love Song
Tracks: Me and You; I Wonder Who; With Your Hand in Mine; Positano Afternoon; Double Trouble; Sing Me a Love Song; I'm Sorry; Hard to Get; There Is No Music; But Here We Are; With Your Hand in Mine; I'm Sorry; But Here We Are; Double Trouble; Hard to Get.
Personnel: David Berger: conductor, arranger; Bob Millikan, Brian Pareschi, Irv Grossman, Brandon Lee, Scott Wendholt: trumpet; Jay Brandford, Matt Hong, Dan Block, Mark Hynes, Carl Maraghi: reeds; Wayne Goodman, Ryan Keberle, Jeff Bush: trombone; Isaac ben Ayala: piano; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Jimmy Madison: drums; Freda Payne, Denzal Sinclaire: vocals.
A New Promise
Tracks: Lament; East to Wes; Miekkaniemi; A New Promise; Mocha Spice; Unified Field; Carenia; You and the Night and the Music.
Personnel: Sheryl Bailey: guitar. Three Rivers Jazz OrchestraSteve Hawk: co-director, lead trumpet; Mike Tomaro: co-director, alto, soprano sax; Joe Herndon, Steve McKnight, James Moore, Ralph Guzzi: trumpet; Jim Guerra: alto sax; Eric DeFade, Rick Matt: tenor sax; Jim Germann: baritone sax; Reggie Watkins, Clayton DeWalt, Ross Garin: trombone; Christopher Carson: bass trombone; Paul Thompson: bass; David Glover: drums. Special guestsJay Ashby: trombone, percussion; Marty Ashby: acoustic guitar; Hendrik Meurkens: vibraphone.
The Music of Joel Frahm and Seamus Blake
Tracks: Away from Home; A Whole New You; Gospel; Jupiter Line; Hoi Polloi; Song for a New Day; Face the Question; Nad Noord; Jobimiola; Four Track Mind.