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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.