Vince Mendoza is a highly creative and cerebral composer and arranger. This release represents perhaps his most ambitious work to date, a full symphonic program with jazz soloists. The program works the classical to jazz spectrum thoroughly, although most of the emphasis is on modern classical; the suite never quite lets loose on a full jazz romp. The moods range from soft and introspective to medium and mellow; there are no loud or fast passages. The opening movement is entirely soft classical. "Wheaten Sky" continues in this vein, gradually yielding to solos by trumpeter Wheeler and guitarist Abercrombie. "Esperanca" swings farther towards the jazz realm, with solos by Brecker, Taylor, and Abercrombie again. The orchestra offers lush support behind the soloists as well as interesting interludes. Lovano and the strings softly caress the gentle melody of "Ambivilence," leading into a solo section with Lovano offering a series of progressively intricate bursts, like a series of fleeting thoughts, over an understated piano vamp and a bed of strings. "Sanctus" features mellow trumpet by Wheeler, followed similarly by Taylor's piano on the title cut. "Barcelona" presents a more jazz-oriented context for Brecker, Abercrombie, and Wheeler. Abercrombie attempts some edgier guitar, but it's still somewhat restrained by the orchestral context. Similarly, Brecker and Wheeler engage in a spirited exchange to the extent the surroundings allow. The closer provides a gentle sax-over-orchestra cushion to lay the suite to rest.
Overall, it's an interesting, enjoyable listening experience. It's an impressive composition and it's executed flawlessly. It's recommended for those who enjoy the classical-meets-jazz genre, but those who are looking for a deeper jazz experience will probably be left a little hungry. (Zebra Acoustic ZA 44407)
Vince Mendoza - composer, arranger, producer; John Abercrombie - guitar; Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano - tenor sax; Peter Erskine - drums; Marc Johnson - bass; John Taylor - piano; Kenny Wheeler - trumpet and flugelhorn; London Symphony Orchestra.