Getting into the spirit of John Coltrane's seminal suite of reverential devotion, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra explores classic jazz from an emotional angle. They swing, and they move cohesively with a big band's full sense of itself; however, the orchestra does not succeed fully in bringing the kind of emotional feeling to the forum that Coltrane had intended. The band is more interested in pursuing its rhythmic groove and maintaining its balanced orchestration than in creating emotional impact.
Some of the best soloists in the business have taken up residence in Wynton Marsalis' high-profile orchestra. A Love Supreme features them as a cohesive ensemble and portrays them as fired-up soloists. With the tempo of the suite moving at a fast pace throughout most of the program, they're forced to turn in rapid-fire spots that omit much of the emotion that should be given higher priority.
The arrangements don't fail. Each of the suite's four movements is pumped with intellectually challenging musical scenery. Themes jump from one section to the next as they converse methodically. Each portion of the suite's arrangement is constructed so that a balance of timbres gives this musical conversation a full, well-rounded impact.
The soulful introduction to "Acknowledgement" and the gospel solemnity of "Psalm" give the LCJO its most effective showing of the program. Wynton Marsalis leads with his trumpet in a call and response affair that ignores the need for a finely tuned rhythmic groove. Moving slowly without meter, the orchestra "speaks" in prayer to a higher being. Emotions are bared and the band's soloists have plenty of room for expression.
Elsewhere, the LCJO's emphasis remains clearly on the side of technical accomplishment and maintaining a shimmering rhythmic groove. While the concert includes fine soloing from artists such as Joe Temperley, Ron Westray, Marcus Printup, Wess Anderson, Eric Lewis, Lew Soloff and Marsalis, each should have had more opportunities to express the magnitude of emotion pioneered by Coltrane's A Love Supreme.
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