Hazel Leach has had quite a musical career. After college, where she studied classical flute as well as jazz / pop saxophone, the Englishwoman spent a number of years as a freelance musician / arranger before moving to Holland in 1979. Six years later she was named lecturer in music at the Arnheim Conservatoire, and in 1992 she co-founded the United Women's Orchestra with friend and colleague Christina Fuchs. The UWO lasted until 2009, after which Leach (who meanwhile had spent time in the U.S. as curator of the Omni International Music Residency, guest lecturer at Harvard and Columbia universities, and artist-in-residence at the Berklee School of Music) relocated to Germany where in 2011 she formed the Composers' Orchestra Berlin. The suitably named Free Range Music is one of the early fruits of that endeavor.
About the COB, Leach writes, "The music written for the band would have no exclusion zones. The mandate would be to combine elements from all possible styles to create music that is truly 'free range,' and to have that music performed by imaginative and creative players." Mission accomplished. The music herein, much of which would be better described by other musicians, is both inclusive and unfetterednot to mention quite demanding, for players and listeners alike. It starts with one of Leach's two compositions, "Spinoff," a relatively sedate and melodic theme that brings to the fore Martin Klenk's deep-voiced cello and Meike Goosmann's mellow soprano sax. As everything here is thematic, based on events, impressions or emotions, Leach's second piece, "Postcard No. 1," she writes, is the first in a series "exploring the apparently inexhaustible rhythmic possibilities of the waltz." Well, "Postcard" may be in ¾ time (that's presumably a given) but it's a sure bet it wouldn't be miscounted for something a member of the Strauss family may have written, even though it does have an explicit waltz-like ambiance.
The other themes, each of which gives free rein to the composer's imagination, range from Oleg Hollmann's assertive "Synthadventures of a Spacehero" to Christian Korthals' graphic "Berlin," the second movement of a suite for big band. In between are Susanne Paul's seductive "Mata Hari," Alexander Tzschentke's audacious "Kleiner Stau," Strakhof's prismatic "Belphegor," Horst Nonnemacher's reverential "Oracao," Ruth Schepers' bellicose "Totales Tanzverbot" and Fee Stracke's freewheeling "Zamboni." While there are solos, this is by and large a composer's enterprise, with the ensemble showcased much of the way. As for the music, it is highly sophisticated, sometimes enigmatic and not designed for unschooled ears. It does, however, in Leach's words, "[display] the wonderfully broad and inspiring diversity of uniquely personal styles, with influences ranging from classical to jazz and from folk to free . . . truly Free Range music."
Track Listing: Spinoff; Synthadventures of a Spacehero; Mata Hari; Kleiner Stau; Belphegor; Oracao; Postcard No. 1; Totales Tanzverbot; Zamboni; Berlin.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.