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This release would look like the dozens of big band recordings that surface every year, except for the small print mentioning Theo Bleckmann. Bleckmann, a fixture in New York City performance art circles, was a conspicuous presence on this year's Winter & Winter recording Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne. Bleckmann isn't singing this time, but his mere presence means something unusual, and perhaps very significant, is up.
The first bit of subterfuge surrounding Joys & Desires is the Bigband Graz, directed by Heinrich von Kalnein and Horst-Michael Schaffer. The Bigband Graz is is centered in Graz, Austria, a band noted for its progressive orchestration, particularly on the recent Question and Answer, a recording made with Bob Brookmeyer of Brookmeyer's compositions and arrangements. The first bit of subterfuge is the presence of composer John Hollenbeck, a musican whose musical taste is both eclectic and omniverous.
Joys & Desires is anything but a big band recording. There is no "One O'clock Jump, no "Lester Leaps In, no "Take the A Train. Composer/percussionist Hollenbeck creates a jungle soundscape with his band, replete with bird calls, cat growls, and antelope hooves tramping in the dirt. Bleckmann is on hand as an androgynous narrator of a sensuous documentary. Bleckmann extends the same decadence he provided Las Vegas Rhapsody to Joys and Desires.
This disc is not for the faint of heart. It is very much a temporal soundtrack generated by a large jazz ensemble under the spell of the master composer Hollenbeck. Bleckmann's creamy, smooth delivery adds to the humidity of the pieces. Joys and Desires should be considered a step beyond mere sound recording into the realm of life soundtrack.
Track Listing: The Bird with Coppery Keen Claws; Just Like Him; Abstinence; Jazz Envy; After A Dance Or Two, We Sit Down For A Pint With Gil And Tim; Garden Of Love; Maxfield.
Personnel: Theo Bleckmann: vocals, electronic effects; Christian Bachner: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Robert Friedl: alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Klaus Gesing: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Martin Harns: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Heinrich Von Kalnein: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Jorg Engels, Axel Mayer, Karl Rossman, Horst-Michael Schaffer: trumpets, flugelhorns; Robert Bachner, Wolfgang Messner, Hans Radinger, Reinhard Summerer: trombones; Oliver Kent: piano; Uli Rennert: keyboards; Henning Sieverts: bass, cello; John Hollenbeck: drums, compositions.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.