Continuing its series of collaborations with well–known American Jazz musicians, the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra travels south of the border, figuratively speaking, for a program of Latin Jazz by one of its leading exponents, composer/pianist Clare Fischer. The eight studio tracks, conducted by longtime music director Rob Pronk, were recorded in 1991; the ninth, “C.P.,” was recorded in concert at The Hague in 1997 and conducted by Vince Mendoza. Fischer arranged every number and composed all but Eubie Blake/Andy Razaf’s ballad, “Memories of You,” which the two–time Grammy Award winner plays unaccompanied. If arranging for the relatively large and string–laden Metropole Orchestra presented a challenge, Fischer shows that he was up to the task, scrupulously dotting every i and crossing every t. The charts, in other words, are first–class. To further assure their success, the former director of the vocal group known as the Hi–Los brought with him one of its alumni, Don Shelton, who doesn’t sing but displays his superior talents on soprano saxophone (“Como Come?”), clarinet (“Pensativa,” a duet with Fischer) and flute (on five selections). Fischer also recruited his son, Brent, to play bass with the orchestra. Fischer plays acoustic piano on three numbers (“C.P.,” “Blues Bossa,” “Memories of You”), “digital piano” (which sometimes sounds like a harpsichord) on the others. It’s an acquired taste, but he’s such an accomplished musician that it charms more often than it annoys. “Pensativa” is perhaps Fischer’s best–known composition, but each of the others deserves comparable recognition. Shelton and Fischer are the principal soloists, with a handful of earnest but uncredited ad libs by members of the orchestra. Unlike some of the Metropole Orchestra’s recordings, this one is generously timed at 66:43, and is easily recommended to those who appreciate Latin Jazz, especially when written by a superlative composer and performed by a world–class orchestra.
Track listing: Como come?; Malibu Glide; C.P.; Pensativa; Dancing Song; Memories of You; Morning; Blues Bossa; Pajaro Loco (66:43).
Clare Fischer, keyboards, with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra conducted by Rob Pronk and Vince Mendoza (