Whenever the word “art” precedes the word “orchestra,” as in Vienna Art Orchestra, the perceptive listener may suspect that he or she could be in for a rather bumpy ride. Not to worry. The VAO has addressed itself here to the music of Duke Ellington and his alter–ego, Billy Strayhorn, which is not only pleasing to most ears but flattens the landscape so as to reduce the frequency and impact of any obstacles in the road. Sound of Love,
recorded in concert during the VAO’s spring tour in ’99 to honor the centenary of Ellington’s birth, consists of bright new arrangements by leader Mathias Rüegg of fourteen songs by Ellington and / or Strayhorn, impressively performed by the world–class orchestra he established in 1977. There are two delightful exceptions — “Mood Indigo,” interpreted by the Muthspiels, trombonist Christian and guitarist Wolfgang; and Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” another duet, this one by clarinetist Klaus Dickbauer and sure–fingered bassist Georg Breinschmid. Taking his cue from Ellington, Rüegg writes with his soloists in mind, showcasing one of them on almost every selection. Trumpeter Bumi Fian leads off on the relatively unsung “Red Garter,” followed by soprano Harry Sokal (“Very Special”) and clarinetist Dickbauer (“Blues in Blueprint”). After “Mood Indigo,” French horn virtuoso Arkady Shilkloper solos on “Smada,” tenor Andy Scherrer on “Warm Valley,” baritone Herwig Gradischnig on “Circle in Fourth,” alto Florian Bramböck on “After All.” Sultry vocalist Anna Lauvergnac is featured with trumpeter Thomas Bansch on “I’m Just a Lucky So–and–So,” with tenor Scherrer on Strayhorn’s poignant “Blood Count” and (as wordless backup) with alto Bramböck on “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” Drummer Mario Gonzi is dynamic on the playful “Little Max,” guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel dazzling on the a cappella finale, “Sophisticated Lady.” While it’s hard to choose any favorites among them, there’s no doubt that Sokal, Dickbauer, Shilkloper, Scherrer and Gradischnig would stand out in almost any crowd. As for Rüegg, one readily agrees with the statement in the booklet that he “handles Ellington’s music like an heirloom lamp, rubbing it, buffing it, making it shine.” That shine rubs off on the VAO whose luminous performance expresses unequivocally The Sound of Love.
Contact: TCB Music SA, Cité–Centre, Grand Rue 92/5, CH–1820, Montreux 1, Switzerland. Phone +41+21+966 55 90; fax +41+21+966 55 92; web site, www.tcb.ch; e–mail email@example.com