CLAZZ Ensemble & Frank Carlberg: Federico on Broadway (2012)
Despite all the oom-pah horns and herky-jerky 2/4 circus rhythms, the complexity of Carlberg's music makes for daunting listening. The Clazz Ensemble pulls it all off with taste, aplomb, and virtuosity. Co-led by veteran tenor saxophonist Dick de Graaf and trumpeter Gerard Kleijn, the 12-tet really makes these pieces come alive. Most interesting is its ability to improvise passionately in Carlberg's decidedly odd musical settings. The title track opens quietly with a rhythm that seems like a broken waltz. A brilliant tenor solo unspools before the band vaults into a Breuker-ish circus-like mixed metric thing. At this point, a trumpet and tenor sax duke it out over increasing hubbub from the rest of the band. It's cacophonous for sure, but Carlberg's arrangement moves different voices into and out of the foregroundjust like a group of actors on a stage delivering their lines. "March" is another lengthy, complex piece built around the concept of musical dialogues, culminating in a goofy brass exchange based on a bugle call. A square 2/4 march feel predominates, but drummer Joost Kesselaar keeps it loose and swinging. The group really breaks out the swing on "Johnny Carlson's Band," an up-tempo barn-burner that gives the band a chance to stretch out.
The remainder of Federico on Broadway is no less surprising, from the breakneck tempo hijinx of "Rat Race" and the almost Frank Zappa-esque quality of "The Chase," to the urbanely funky "Tricks," featuring a particularly lovely passage, where Carlberg's own distinctive piano solos blithely over a seething bed of low brass and clarinets. Federico on Broadway is one of those CDs that refuses to sink into the background. It may well be annoying in the car, while driving; that's because it must be heardand heard repeatedlyon its own terms.
Track Listing: Federico on Broadway; March; Green Room; Rat Race; The Chase; Tricks; Johnny Carlson's Big Band.
Personnel: Dick de Graaf: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Arno Bornkamp: tenor and soprano saxophones; Paul van der Feen: alto saxophone, clarinet; Nils von Haften: baritone sxophone, bass clarinet; Gerard Kleijn: trumpet; Frank Anepool: trumpet; Charlie Biggs: teumpet; Vincent Veneman: trombone; Koen Kaptijn: trombone; Kris Goossens: piano (1-4); Guus Bakker: bass; Joost Kesselaar: drums; Frank Carlberg: conductor (1-4), piano (5-7).
Record Label: Red Piano Records