The “Rheinknie Session,” held annually in Basle, Switzerland, brings together many of that country’s leading Jazz musicians for a five–day festival. In October 1995, festival officials agreed to set aside one evening for a mammoth event that would present many of Switzerland’s most accomplished Jazz artists in concert. Thirty–five prominent musicians were contacted, and all but one, trumpeter Matthieu Michel, was able to attend (Michel was on tour with the Vienna Art Orchestra). It was decided to present the musicians according to age groups: first, those who had survived the ups and downs of past decades and were continuing to pursue successful musical careers (“The Survivors”); next, artists who came to prominence in the ’60s and ploughed their way through disco and fusion (“The Lost Jazz Generation”); third, the newcomers, aware of Jazz tradition but modern in their approach to it (“The Youngbloods”); and last but not least, one of Jazz’s most enduring genres, the big band, represented by Le Big Band de Lausanne. BBL opens this marvelous concert recording with a smoking version of pianist George Gruntz’s “Spring Song,” featuring Danilo Moccia on trombone and (sitting in for Michel) Franco Ambrosetti on flugel. The Youngbloods are next, with the clever young tenor saxophonist Christoph Grab showcased on his own fleet–footed composition, “Express.” The Survivors delve into Jazz history to deepen Ellington’s “Sentimental Mood” before the Lost Generation takes center stage to swallow Ambrosetti’s acerbic “Gin and Pentatonic” (perhaps the least flavorful item on the menu). The Youngbloods try their best to steer the train back on track with trumpeter Dany Schenker’s dancing “Aries,” but his extended solo is off–mic and barely audible, and the sound system doesn’t regain its balance until midway through Nat Su’s alto solo, dampening an otherwise splendid performance. The sound problems continue on “It’s You or No One,” which is a shame, as the Survivors are in top–notch form on the standard with flashing solos by trumpeter Raymond Court, alto Bruno Spoerri, vibraphonist Kurt Weil and pianist Peter Jacques riding atop the solid time–keeping of bassist Vincent Kummer and drummer Charly Antolini. The BBL then wraps the package with Yvan Ischer’s undulating “Scorpio,” featuring leader / arranger Christian Gavillet on baritone sax, Ischer on tenor, Stefano Sacco on soprano and drummer Marcel Papaux. While this isn’t strictly a “big–band concert,” the big band does tend, as they often do, to steal everyone’s thunder. Even so, everyone else is first–rate, and SwitzerJazz offers a wide–angle sketch of the best Jazz that country has to offer.
Track listing: Spring Song; Express; In a Sentimental Mood; Gin & Pentatonic; Aries; It’s You or No One; Scorpio (70:06).