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Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Countermove

Jack Bowers By

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The Brussels Jazz Orchestra, which has welcomed in the past such eminent composer/arrangers as Bill Holman, Maria Schneider, Kenny Werner and Phil Woods, and has played the music of noted Belgians Bert Joris and Michel Herr, turns for a second time on this new album to works by its talented artistic director/lead alto saxophonist, Frank Vaganée, whose musical expertise is undeniably comparable to those already named.

Vaganée's elaborate charts run the gamut from blues to ballads, shuffle rhythms to flat-out swingers, opening with "Mr. Iron, Stone, Wood and I, a snappy and refreshing take on George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm. Another, the mellow bossa "Seasoned, a bounteous showcase for Nathalie Loriers' eloquent piano, was included on an earlier album, The September Sessions (1999). "Walking Away, one of three songs written by Vaganée in 2005 (the others are "Robusto and "Languorous Ballad ), might be more accurately titled "Running Away, as it scampers recklessly from start to finish behind smoldering commentary by trumpeter Pierre Drevet, trombonist Lode Mertens and alto saxophonist Dieter Limbourg.

Vaganée's lustrous alto is front and center on the dreamy "Ballad, Kurt van Herck's evocative tenor on the suitably named "Robusto, Marc Godfroid's fluent trombone on the spirited "Countermove. Loriers frames another stylish solo on the groovy, Basie-inspired "Blues Goose, as do Vaganée and muted trumpeter Nico Schepers. Loriers, tenor Bart Defoort, baritone Bo van der Werf and bassist Jos Machtel carve the lumber on "Mr. Wood. Vaganée returns, this time on soprano sax, to enliven the picturesque "Inheritance, a charming adaptation for orchestra of Flemish composer Peter Benoit's Lied der Vlamingen ("Song of the Flemings ). The sharp and powerful rhythm section, ably supervised by drummer Martijn Vink, is awe-inspiring, as it is on every number.

As I've said before, the BJO is by any measure a world-class ensemble, and Countermove emphatically provides more evidence to bolster that conviction. Vaganée's songs and charts are first-class too, thus making the enterprise even more rewarding. Splendid sound and 77:45 playing time serve also to amplify one's pleasure. A breathtaking big band in Brussels? Believe it.


Track Listing: Mr. Iron, Stone, Wood and I; The Countermove; Robusto; The Blues Goose; Seasoned; Walking Away; Languorous Ballad; Inheritance.

Personnel: Frank Vagan

Title: Countermove | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: De Werf

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