Toward the end of his remarkable career, the late pianist Joe Sample (he died on September 12, 2014) traveled to Hamburg, Germany, to record Children of the Sun, a suite of his own music, with the splendid NDR Big Band. The eleven compositions were inspired by Sample's appearance at the 1995 St. Croix Jazz Festival, where he weighed the beauty of that island paradise against the brutality of slavery (17th Century St. Croix was a crucial part of what is referred to as slavery's middle passage") and the helplessness and hopelessness the captives must have felt. Sample thought something should ...read more
There's a certain logic underlying the union of percussionist/composer Trilok Gurtu and the NDR Big-band, as both have proved themselves open to musical exploration over the years. Gurtu, in particular, has consistently blurred the boundaries of music, and it is characteristic of his way of thinking to employ Simon Phillips--ostensibly a rock drummer-- with a jazz big band, to bring a different groove to the mix. Wolf Kerscheck's stirring arrangements of ten Gurtu compositions are both sympathetic to Gurtu's melting-pot philosophy, and imaginative in their reach, and to this end the arranger deserves equal plaudits for what is a pulsating ...read more
Since 2005, British arranger/conductor Colin Towns has trawled the discographies of Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis for collaborative potential with Germany's NBR Big Band. In every case--most recently, on Visions of Miles (In + Out, 2009)--the focus was on source material in and around the jazz sphere, with plenty of built-in grist for Towns' soaring imagination to run rampant, blending vibrant and oftentimes complex charts with soloists capable of marrying form, freedom, and the fuzzy space in between. All of which makes the success of John Lennon--In My Own Write all the more remarkable; while some of the ...read more
Considering the instrumental forces that the big band offers, it's surprising how conservative a lot of large ensemble writing is. Days Like These isn't iconoclastically innovative, but there's enough on offer to satisfy those who find such conservatism tiresome.
Saxophonist Mark Lockheart clearly appreciates what he has at his disposal for all of the relatively conventional section scoring. NDR is a band that embraces rhythmic precision, even as it remains loose enough to avoid sounding drilled. Despite the cyclical, quasi-minimalist figure that comprises the heart of the opening Rag," the music is marked by an urgency which prevails--even in moments ...read more
Abdullah Ibrahim, aka Dollar Brand, born Adolph Johannes Brand, was born in Cape Town South Africa in 1934. He is credited with taking part in the first jazz recording session in South Africa, a date where he joined American pianist John Mohegan for Jazz in Africa. Since that time, Ibrahim has traveled widely, finally dividing his time between New York City and Capetown. Ekapa Ludumo is a long-awaited reunion of Ibrahim with the Nordeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) Big Band. It is a collection of Ibrahim compositions arranged by Steve Gray and Fritz Pauer.
Ekapa Ludumo was recorded live in ...read more
Although perhaps best known in his native Germany, composer Kurt Weill wrote songs for the musical theatre that transcended boundaries, several of which (“Mack the Knife,” “Speak Low,” “My Ship”) are played often today in many styles and contexts, 100 years after Weill’s birth and half a century after his death, not only in Germany but around the world. The world–class NDR (North German Radio) Big Band pays homage to Weill in his centennial year with songs from half a dozen of his best–known plays, arranged and conducted by Colin Towns, one of the bright young lights on the British ...read more
This charming two–disc set by Germany’s world–class NDR Big Band was recorded in 1998, sixty years after clarinetist Benny Goodman’s legendary concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, and is meant to salute that memorable occasion. It’s not an exact re–creation, thank goodness, but a number of arrangements written especially for the Goodman band were meticulously transcribed from source materials, so what is heard — aside from the soloists, who are emphatically up–to–date — is in essence what was presented six decades ago. Goodman didn’t bring his own big band to the Carnegie Hall date, employing instead a smaller group ...read more