Here’s one for the books. The Netherlands Metropole Orchestra, which has earned worldwide acclaim backing artists from Charles Aznavour, Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole to Clark Terry, Nancy Wilson and the Yellowjackets, flies solo here, shining the spotlight on its own drawing cards with generally dazzling results — as would be expected from an orchestra that has been one of Europe’s foremost Jazz ensembles for more than half a century. Metropole has had only three principal conductors during that time: Rolf van der Linden who formed the orchestra in 1945 and retired in 1980; Rogier van Otterloo, the son of celebrated conductor Willem van Otterloo, who was at the helm until his untimely passing in 1988 at age 46; and Dick Bakker who was named chief conductor/artistic director in 1991. On the aptly named Metropole Orkest,
Bakker conducts all but one selection, stepping aside for a rather well–credentialed visitor, Bill Holman, who oversees his arrangement of “Moon of Manakoora.” With no guest artists to call on, Metropole reaches into its own ranks for soloists, and there’s no appreciable reduction in quality with saxophonists Leo Janssen, Marc Scholten and Dick Vennik, trombonist Bart van Lier, guitarists Peter Tiehuis and Lex Bolderdijk, pianist Hans Vroomans, flutist Janine Abbas, drummer Arno van Nieuwenhuize and violinist Ernö Olah holding the torch aloft. The charts are luminous and persuasive, with especially high marks for Holman, Henk Heijink (Dave Weckl’s lively “Festival de Ritmo”), Vince Mendoza (“Deep Song,” “Esperança”), Rob Pronk (Gershwin’s “Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York”), Onno Krijn (Astor Piazzolla’s delightful tango, “Nightclub 1960”) and last but not least, Bill Whelan (his by–now well–known “Riverdance,” with excellent solo work by Olah and Abbas). Mendoza scored Russ Ferrante’s “Greenhouse,” Kenny Napper the standard “Never Let Me Go,” Chiel Meijering the colorful closing medley, “Slash,” comprised of the contemporary songs “Look at You Now” (Mick Hucknall), “Paint It Black” (Mick Jagger/Keith Richard) and “In My White Room” (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown). While there’s no Nick Brignola, Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Cooper, Ronnie Cuber, Clare Fischer, Lee Konitz, Andy Martin, Bill Perkins, Claudio Roditi, Bud Shank or Bobby Shew here (the orchestra has recorded with all of them), the Metropole is none the worse for it. In fact, it’s a pleasure to hear the ensemble do its own thing for a change — and to enrich one’s awareness of why so many prominent Jazz artists are eager to enlist under the Metropole Orchestra’s banner.
Track listing: Festival de Ritmo; Greenhouse; Never Let Me Go; There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York; Riverdance; Deep Song; The Moon of Manakoora; Esperança; Nightclub 1960; Slash (62:23).