West Coast trombonist Michael Vlatkovich displays some mature yet nonconformist writing and arranging on Across 36 Continents. The eccentricities prepared for this ten-piece small orchestra make for fresh and at times freewheeling music-making. Then again, Vlatkovich is known for being a bit unconventional. His recent work has been in duets: Call And Response (pfMentum), with poet Dottie Grossman; and Chobraty (Nine Winds), with tubaist William Roper.
Here he enlists some of his usual suspects and playing partners: trumpeters Rob Blakeslee and Jeff Kaiser; and saxophonists Kurt Peterson and Rich Halley. Add to that Jill Torberson's glorious French horn, Mark Weaver's tuba, Alan Lechusza's bass clarinet, and Mark Weber's percussion.
The longest piece also has the longest title: "It's Too Much To See Things Any More Clearly Than One Must See Them. Opening with the scuba-sounding muted trumpet, the off-kilter circus sounds await the merry-go-round's stops and restarts. Drummer Chris Lee lays out for long passages, enabling the one-on-one interactions to shine. The getting up to speed before slowing to each station is quite thrilling and a nice way to feature the soloists.
Vlatkovich plays on the Hollywood noir nostalgia on "All Of You None Of Us Must Know and offers some silly slurring on "5 Why Zee, which opens the disc. He occasionally employs a heavy dynamic sound to drive the music, but mostly he writes music with a light touch and an undeniable grace, like the gentle "I Have These Tears. Poet Mark Weber joins the band on "Be Careful, a meditation on motorways with the band playing echoey (car) horn arrangements behind the poet.
Hopefully Vlatkovich will never surrender to any jazz standard or canonhis music is too precious.
5 Why Zee 1; I Have These Tears; Asking How Tiny Screams Rust Thousands Of Times
Beneath Enormous Rocks; Infinity; Be Careful; 9113; It
Michael Vlatkovich: trombone, percussion; Rob Blakeslee: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff
Kaiser: trumpet; Jill Torberson: French horn; Michael Powers: bass trombone;
Mark Weaver: tuba; Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Kurt Peterson: alto saxophone,
tenor saxophone; Alan Lechusza: bass clarinet; Chris Lee: drum set,
vibes/percussion; Mark Weber: narrator (5).