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Vince Mendoza: Blauklang

Glenn Astarita By

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For jazz aficionados, composer/arranger Vince Mendoza's artisanship is a well-known entity. However, he's also enamored the works of pop-rock stars of note, including Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and Sheryl Crow. Mendoza is a master-craftsman who possesses a keen ear to complement his vivid imaginative powers, characteristics that are fastidiously transmitted throughout this rather wondrous 2008 release.

The English translation for the German album title is "blue sound," and emanates from a painting by German artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902-1968). Mendoza's original compositions, sans Miles Davis' opening classic, "All Blues," duly paint a multihued musical portraiture that luminously intimates various shades of blue. Recorded at both a German studio and music festival, the artist employs some of the finest Euro-jazz instrumentalists along with guitarist Nguyen Le and drummer Peter Erskine, who round out the strings and horns based ensemble.

With lush textures, medium tempo swing vamps and multilayered arrangements, Mendoza conveys numerous shades of blue, especially on "All Blues," where supple horns provide counterpoint to Le's somewhat elusive and loosely based reckoning of the primary theme. In other regions of sound and scope, Mendoza implements buoyant undercurrents amid symphonic-like opuses.

Mendoza's "Ollie Mention" is constructed up from a hauntingly beautiful theme that features a simple melody and rippling strings passages, as Le ups the ante via his angular riffing atop the ensemble's layered choruses. "Movement II" of the six-part "Bluesounds" features French hornist Arkady Shilkloper's triumphant lines, performed above a flourishing background, while elsewhere the contrasting hues and shadings are abetted by Markus Stockhausen's velvety solo spot.

With four Grammy awards under his hat, Mendoza may well be in line for number five with this gleaming masterwork

Track Listing: All Blues; Lo Rossinyol; Habanera; Blues for Pablo; Ollie Mention; Bluesounds Movement I; Bluesounds Movement II; Bluesounds Movement III; Bluesounds Movement IV; Bluesounds Movement V; Bluesounds Movement VI.

Personnel: Nguyen Le: guitar; Markus Stockhausen: trumpet; Claudio Puntin: clarinets, saxophones; Steffen Schorn: clarinets, saxophonies; Frank Sackenheim: saxophones; Arkady Shilkloper: French Horn; Jon Sass: tuba; Lars Danielsson: bass; Ulla Van Daelen: harp; Peter Erskine: drums; Christopher Dell: vibraphone; String Quartet Red Urg 4: Gerdur Gunnarsdottir: violin; Christine Rox: violin; Thorunn Osk Marinosdotir: viola; Daniel Raabe: cello.

Title: Blauklang | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ACT Music


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