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The Daniel Schenker Quartet: Iridium

Jack Bowers By

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More inspired jazz from overseas. It's musicians like Daniel Schenker and albums like Iridium that make this country's so-called jazz polls so patently ludicrous. Technically and creatively, Schenker is on a par with many of the trumpeters whose names regularly appear at or near the top surveys conducted by critics or laymen and published in our leading jazz magazines. The downside is that Schenker and his companions make their home in Switzerland, which is somewhat removed from New York City and other metropolitan areas in the U.S. where most of those critics and laymen reside.

As a result, Iridium won't be widely heard stateside. But it should be. Jazz knows no boundaries, and this Swiss quartet plays the contemporary post-bop variety about as well as anyone. Schenker has studied with another Swiss master, Bert Joris, as well as with Tom Harrell, Wynton Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Jack Walrath and others. He has obviously listened closely to such gurus as Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Blue Mitchell and Art Farmer. His teammates, pianist Chris Weisendanger, bassist Peter Frei and drummer Elmar Frey, boast impressive resumés, having performed with a large number of well-known jazz stars from the U.S. and abroad. Weisendanger is bright and energetic throughout, while Frey delivers an impassioned solo on his own composition, "The Call" (one of only three numbers not written and/or arranged by Schenker).

Schenker wrote "Mir" for the Russian space station, "Iridium" for Freddie Hubbard, "Chet" quite obviously for Mr. Baker. He also composed the ballad "Jedesmal Anders," the flag-waving "N.S.E.W." (North, South, East, West), which uses the four symmetrical keys Gb, A, C and Eb, and arranged Wayne Shorter's billowing "Black Nile" and Brazilian composer Ary Barroso's ballad "Na Batucada da Vida." "Mir," which is quite simply delightful, is based on John Coltrane's "Satellite," which uses the chord changes of the standard "How High the Moon." Splendid solos by Schenker and Weisendanger help get the album off to a running start, and the pace doesn't slacken until everyone has crossed the finish line.

As is true of a number of small-group sessions I've appraised recently, Weisendanger's piano is often recorded too prominently. Aside from that, Iridium is first-rate, another dazzling example of how Europeans have embraced "America's classical music" and added their own special point of view.

Contact: Brambus Records, P.O. Box 44, CH-7004 Chur, Switzerland. Web site www.brambus.com ; email [email protected]


Track Listing: Mir; Iridium; Chet; Black Nile; Jedesmal Anders; The Call; Na Batucada da Vida; N.S.E.W. (52:55).

Personnel: Daniel Schenker, trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Wiesendanger, piano; Peter Frei, bass; Elmar Frey, drums.

Title: Iridium | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Brambus Records

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