, by trumpeter Tim Hagans
and Germany's superlative NDR Big Band, is really five conversations- -that is, a five-movement concerto composed, arranged and conducted by Hagans who also solos on Movements III, IV and V. Hagans and the band are more than strangers in the nighthe has collaborated with NDR for two decades as guest composer, conductor, arranger and soloist. To underscore his purpose, Hagans has grouped the band members not in sections, as is usually done, but in four ensembles of four to five chairs based on "sonic and emotional properties." Brass and winds reside in three of the groups, the rhythm section in the fourth.
Although Hagans must have had his theoretical reasons for that, in practice it sounds like a standard big-band structure with sections seated in their usual places. Perhaps if this were a DVD instead of CD the configuration would be apparent; as it is, the grouping warrants no more than a parenthetical notice. And no matter where anyone is seated, it is the music that should be examined and appraised. Cutting to the chase, Hagans composes for the enlightened ear; this is for the most part music of an exploratory nature, anchored in the jazz idiom but generally lacking the sort of earnestness and spontaneity that are its customary hallmarks. An exception is "Movement III," wherein the rhythms are more vibrant and the solosby Hagans, trumpeter Stephan Meinberg
, alto Peter Bolte
, baritone Daniel Buch
and trombonist Stefan Lotterman
are crisp and effective.
"Movement V" also has its moments, gliding smoothly along behind Hagans' muted trumpet before shifting gears to accommodate Klaus Heidenreich
's nimble trombone. Drummer Jukkis Uotila
lends steadfast support here, as he does on every movement. In a perfect world, "Movement III" and "Movement V" would have opened the Conversation
. As it is, Movement I serves as an uneven and blustery introduction, cushioned by pianist Vyadyslav Sendecki, after which "Movement II" slides into a fugue-like motif before uniting brass and reeds in a chorale-like form to preface Ingmar Heller
's bass and Bruch's stridulant bass clarinet. Hagans revisits his jazz roots on "Movement III," abandoning the discord long enough to slip in some old-school swing, as he does to a lesser extent on "Movement V." Other listeners may find this Conversation
consistently productive and agreeable. The assessment here: three stars for enterprise and talent.