Get Well Soon is the third recording by the New Art Orchestra, an eighteen-piece ensemble formed nearly two decades ago in Lubeck, Germany, as a jazz component of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and overseen since its inception by the renowned American trombonist and composer, Bob Brookmeyer. Brookmeyer loves the NAO ("It has been my good fortune to become associated with an incredible group of people," he says. "They love what they do, they thrive on their friendships, and they give everything they have to me and my music")and the NAO loves him back, the proof of which is readily apparent to anyone who peruses the results of their collaborative efforts.
To Brookmeyer, love doesn't mean spoon-feeding his colleagues easily digestible fodder, and the charts he sets before them are as strenuous and sophisticated as one could envision. But the NAO seems unfazed, mastering the tricky metric shifts and harmonic variations with the sort of ease one associates with a leisurely stroll in the park. As a writer, Brookmeyer calls to mind Bill Holman and Gil Evans, among others, singular artists who use the entire orchestra as a canvas on which to paint their elaborate and expressive musical portraits. This is nowhere more apparent than on the exuberant opener, "Tah-DUM!", on which the NAO offers guest trumpeter Till Brönner a lively welcome with pianist Kris Goessens and drummer John Hollenbeck setting the compass while Brönner dances nimbly through and around the changes.
Brönner is also showcased on "Monster Rally," "Over Here" and the entrancing ballad "For You" (on flugelhorn); Goessens on "Song, Sing, Sung" and "Elegy"; tenor saxophonist Paul Heller on "Get Well Soon," the last written for Brookmeyer's Norwegian friend Jan Horne, who is recovering from a recent battle with cancer (and credits Brookmeyer's composition with hastening the healing process). As for Brookmeyer, who now considers himself "a composer who also plays [valve] trombone," he has the two brief "Interludes" largely to himself, and, as always, solos marvelously.
The mournful "Elegy" was penned for another of Brookmeyer's friends, composer Earle Brown, who was near death when it was written. The orchestra doesn't let him down, nor does Goessens, whose eloquent and responsive solo heightens its emotional impact. From "Elegy," the NAO launches into the powerful "Get Well Soon," goaded by Hollenbeck's assertive drumming and animated by Heller's loquacious soloan altogether suitable conclusion to an impressive panorama by two bright and indomitable forces, Bob Brookmeyer and the New Art Ochestra.
Track Listing: Tah-DUM!; Monster Rally; For You; Over Here; Interlude #1; Lovely; Song, Sing, Sung; Interlude #2; Elegy; Get Well Soon (65:36).
Personnel: Bob Brookmeyer, composer, arranger, conductor, valve trombone; Thorsten Beckenstein, Torsten Maass, Sebastian Strempel, Eckhard Baur, Aneel Soomary, trumpet; Marko Lackner, Oliver Leicht, Paul Heller, Niels van Haften, Edgar Herzog, reeds; Steve Trop, Christian Jaksjo, trombone; Anders Wiborg, Ed Partyka, bass trombone; Hendrik Soll, synthesizer; Kris Goessens, piano; Ingmar Heller, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums. Guest artist -- Till Br