The SWR Big Band is in danger of becoming Germany’s answer to the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra — but without the string section. Like Metropole, SWR has produced a series of albums in which the orchestra backs well–known guest artists, most of them Americans, but mainly in concert performances rather than the studio settings preferred by Metropole. This album, featuring half a dozen pensive compositions by trumpeter Jens Winther, complements recent enterprises by SWR showcasing the talents of Bob Florence, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Bob Mintzer and German saxophonist Max Greger. Winther gives the band plenty to do, as he favors extended compositions (the briefest, “Child of Nature,” clocks in at eight minutes, forty–one seconds) whose darkly sophisticated themes pave the way for discursive ensemble passages behind and between solos. Speaking of solos, none are included on the somber thirteen–minute finale, “Alien Cult,” an austere exercise in group dynamics and tonal colors. “Lifetime,” which raises the curtain, shuffles to a livelier rock–centered beat laid down by guest drummer Jukkis Uotila, underpinning admirable solos by Martin Schrack on electric piano and guitarist Klaus–Peter Schöpfer. Winther is the soloist on his shapely ballad “Child of Nature,” soprano saxophonist Peter Weniger on Winther’s most accessible (straight–ahead) essay, “The Fourth Way.” Schrack’s unaccompanied piano introduces the sylphlike “Science Fiction,” on which he and Schöpfer solo, while Schrack and tenor Andreas Maile share the honors on “The Hierophant,” whose bright ensemble passages counterbalance to some extent its melancholy theme. Leading as it does to the even gloomier “Alien Cult” and another thirteen minutes of uninterrupted cheerlessness, one wonders whether the audience was applauding the music or the end of its ordeal. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that those last two numbers wouldn’t cause anyone to put on his or her dancing shoes. An erratic performance with some bright moments but many others that are dark and oppressive.
Contact:Hänssler Classic, P.O. Box D-71087, Holzerlingen, Germany; www.haenssler–classic.de; firstname.lastname@example.org
Track Listing: Lifetime; Child of Nature; The Fourth Way; Science Fiction; The Hierophant; Alien Cult (71:19).
Personnel: Jens Winther, composer, arranger, trumpet; Bernd Rabe, Axel K
Title: Jazz in Concert Featuring Jens Winther
| Year Released: 2001
| Record Label: H