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Last Dance

Last Dance by Edward Partyka
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Edward Partyka

Label: Neuklang
Released: 2022
Duration: 44
Views: 628

Track Listing

G.G.'s Last Dance; Para Nada; Dienda; Do As I Say (Not As I Do).


Personnel

Edward Partyka
composer/conductor
Jouni Jarvela
saxophone
Ville Vannemaa
saxophone, baritone
Manuel Dunkel
saxophone, tenor
Mikko Mäkinen
saxophone
Max Zenger
clarinet, bass
Tero Saarti
trumpet
Tomi Nikku
trumpet
Mikeal Längbacka
trombone, bass
Jori Hutala
bass, acoustic

Additional Personnel / Information

Janne Toivonen - Trumpet Joonas Seppelin - French Horn Juho Valjakka - Piano Juho Kivivouri - Bass

Album Description

UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra (formerly known as the UMO Jazz Orchestra) was founded in 1975 and has released over sixty albums. The orchestra has been featured with hundreds of artists in thousands of concerts in Finland and around the world. This album is the first conducted by Ed Partyka, the orchestra’s current artistic director. Originally hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Partyka has lived and worked in Europe since 1990, mainly in the German speaking countries. As a conductor and arranger, he has collaborated with many top European Big Bands and mentions Bob Brookmeyer as a significant artistic mentor – perhaps no wonder, Partyka’s instruments being the bass trombone and tuba. He has played on over sixty albums, eleven of which have been released under his own name. The collaboration between UMO and Partyka barely got off to a start when Covid-19 took over the world in March 2020. All the great plans and bright ideas went to waste and “the new normal” started. UMO’s headquarters at the old cable factory Kaapelitehdas in Helsinki was converted into a studio and streamed concerts and other digital content became the order of the day. This was the inaugural production at UMO’s new studio, with three of the four titles being recorded there in September 2020. On this album UMO’s expanded instrumentation consists of an acoustic rhythm section, five trumpets, French horn, three trombones, tuba and all five saxophone players doubling admirably on a wide variety of woodwind instruments, from flute to contrabass clarinet (and almost everything in-between). Thanks to this impressive array of instruments in the hands of the outstanding musicians of UMO, the soundscape of the album is lush and fervent and Partyka’s sonorous voicings and rich harmonies provide a warm and luxurious orchestral cushion for melancholy melodies and expressive improvised solos. G.G.’s Last Dance is an Ed Partyka original composition, commencing with haunting alto flutes over a delicate duo of bass clarinets. The clave rhythm played on the floor tom leads into a mournful trombone melody, played by Kasperi Sarikoski, which then takes off into a solo. The rhythmic “Rhumba” element persists, while in the background the full arsenal of diverse instruments is used to great effect. Sarikoski utilizes the special characteristics of the trombone by playing micro intervals in a beautiful fashion. The dance takes a firm hold of the orchestra and its soloist until the mood gradually calms down. The beautiful melody of Para Nada was composed by Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias. The low brass section with flügelhorns creates a soft foundation upon which Mikko Mäkinen’s tranquil clarinet can gently float. The contrast between the bright clarinet and the deeply resonating foundation of the low brass and woodwinds has been superbly captured on record. After the piano solo the clarinet returns to the melody, which just keeps going. It’s as if Mäkinen would prefer not to let go of the moment. The piano solo of Seppo Kantonen soothes the situation and provides strong support. Numerous versions have been recorded of Kenny Kirkland’s Dienda, ranging from Sting’s vocal rendition to the soprano saxophone meditation of Branford Marsalis. This is the first notable arrangement for big band, and it provides a solo platform for four excellent musicians. Tatu-Pekka Paukkunen gracefully presents the melody on French horn, which then continues as a duet with alto saxophonist Jouni Järvelä. The underlying riffs and backgrounds of the low brass form a feeling of suspense below Seppo Kantonen’s eloquent piano solo, which builds and segues into a dramatic and impressive shout chorus lead by Teemu Mattsson, UMO’s lead trumpet player and concertmaster. Behind everything is the pulsating drumming of Jaska Lukkarinen, progressing into a solo where the drummer’s evident musicality and power are both on display. The beautiful melody returns for brief instant before a recapitulation of the introduction brings the arrangement full circle, for a satisfying sense of closure. Do as I Say (Not as I Do) is the advice of the conductor, which (if heeded) will lead the orchestra to its desired outcome. This piece has the fastest tempo of the album, challenging the musicians but never fazing them from executing their parts with precision. This track was also recorded in September 2020, but at a concert in Helsinki’s Savoy Theatre, with precautionary distancing measures limiting the audience to only two hundred people. The solid groove of the rhythm section supports the contrapuntal dialogue of the brass and saxophones and Jaska Lukkarinen colors the ensemble with soloistic percussive statements. Ville Vannemaa plays an extremely melodic solo that grows in intensity and builds to a spectacular climax, soaring over the full orchestra. The challenges of the pandemic remain, and this album is an important document of a situation that could not have been foreseen when Ed Partyka and the members of UMO started working together in early 2020. In any case, the ninth conductor of the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra has earned his place in the auspicious, almost fifty-year long history of the orchestra with the excellent music presented here on Last Dance.


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