154

The Vienna Art Orchestra: A Centenary Journey

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
One has to hand it to the Vienna Art Orchestra; this is one adventurous band of Austrians. On Centenary Journey, recorded live in March ’01 at the Sofiensäle, Vienna, the VAO makes an heroic (and broadly successful) effort to compress a century of ever–shifting Jazz styles into one expansive snapshot. Unlike Ken Burns’ recent (and controversial) television series, Jazz, which was weighted heavily in favor of the music’s early pioneers with the last forty years or so telescoped into one hour–long (or ninety–minute) episode, The VAO’s enterprise leans rather conspicuously in the opposite direction, being evenly divided between Jazz as it developed from 1900 through the ’50s (the first seven selections) and in the years from 1960 to the present (the last seven). Even though, like many others, we strongly disagreed with Burns’ argument, this is one instance in which we’d have welcomed more Burns traditionalism (1900–59) and less VAO innovation (1960–present), as the album begins to slide downhill after track seven before coming to rest in the largely barren abyss of fusion, crossover, world music, techno–Jazz, hip–hop and “the ghost of Jazz yet to come” (tracks eleven–fourteen). Trumpeter Thomas Gansch wrote and arranged the evocative “early” numbers (“Roll on Jelly,” 1900; “Steam Stomp,” 1910), leader Mathias Rüegg the last dozen, beginning with a sultry eight–bar blues, “Shadows Over the Jazz Age,” sung by Anna Lauvergnac with trombone solo by Robert Bachner. Alto Florian Bramböck is showcased on the Basie–style “Golden Moments,” baritone Herwig Gradischnig on Rüegg’s zestful homage to bebop, “Arriba.” Cool Jazz is represented by “The Aura of Coolness” (Andy Scherrer, tenor sax), modal Jazz by “Back to the Blue Notes” (Matthieu Michel, flugel). If we could’ve gotten off the bus at that stop the trip would have been far more agreeable, even though there are a handful of pleasurable moments from there to the end of the line. “Caged Freedom,” in which trombonist Christian Muthspiel struggles “to find his way out of an imaginary labyrinth of playful sounds,” is an incessantly dreary listening experience (which the audience adores, as it does everything on the program). Soprano saxophonist Harry Sokal fares only marginally better on the modal “Woodstock’s Dilemma,” while guitarist Martin Koller and bassist Georg Breinschmid offer a smooth and charming change of pace on “The (dis)Advantage of Silence.” Fusion then rears its ugly head with “Play It Louder” (a suggestion the VAO takes to heart), patterned on bassist Jaco Pastorius’ big band. Clarinetist Klaus Dickbauer is the guide on an uneven tour through the various styles of world music, Koller returns as chauffeur on the techno / hip–hop “Off Beat Berlin on the Beat,” and Gansch / Sokal are front and center on the schizophrenic finale, “Tomorrow’s Forms — Today’s Emotions.” While not everything here is to our liking, the VAO is never less than impressive, and those whose minds are more open than ours should warmly embrace this remarkable tour de force.

Contact: www.quintonrecords.com

Track Listing: Roll on, Jelly; Steam Stomp; Shadows Over the Jazz Age; Golden Moments; Arriba; The Aura of Coolness; Back to the Blue Notes; Caged Freedom; Woodstock

Personnel: Mathias R

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Quinton Records | Style: Big Band


Shop

More Articles

Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Soul Garden CD/LP/Track Review Soul Garden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Authorized Bang Collection CD/LP/Track Review The Authorized Bang Collection
by Doug Collette
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Shoebox View" CD/LP/Track Review Shoebox View
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 4, 2016
Read "Playgrounds" CD/LP/Track Review Playgrounds
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs
by Jim Trageser
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Atmosphères" CD/LP/Track Review Atmosphères
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 13, 2016
Read "Godspeed" CD/LP/Track Review Godspeed
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Songs Of Bacharach And Manzanero" CD/LP/Track Review Songs Of Bacharach And Manzanero
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!