What can one say when the composer is widely acclaimed, the orchestra world–class, and the music (in his opinion) well–written and arranged but singularly unexciting? Well, he could begin by noting that One More Time, the UMO Jazz Orchestra’s collaboration with composer / trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and vocalist Norma Winstone, is far better than its earlier album for A–Records, Electrifying Miles (AL 75153), with another guest trumpeter, Tim Hagans. This one is at least listenable — but not much more than that. In other words, there’s nothing here (again, our opinion) that would cause any big–band Jazz enthusiast to stand up and cheer; this is, rather, music to be acknowledged with polite applause, conforming to its genteel themes and restful character. To its credit, UMO does the best it can with Wheeler’s well–formed but generally placid compositions, which seem well–suited to the Finnish temperament, and one certainly can’t fault the orchestra for their lack of charisma. It’s simply the nature of the beast. As a listener I’ve never connected with Wheeler’s theatrical way of composing, and I’m even less enamored of the sort of wordless vocals that are Ms. Winstone’s stock in trade (she does actually sing lyrics on “Only a Dream,” Part 3 of the One More Time Suite, and “Sea Lady,” but even though her voice is lovely the verses are far from riveting, to say the least). The same can be said of Wheeler’s playing on trumpet and flugel, which, while technically sound, seems oddly impersonal, and he is clearly outshone by Tero Saarti’s flugel solo on “W.W.” I regret not being able to send a more positive message to Wheeler on his 70th birthday or UMO on its 25th anniversary, both of which are symbolized by this album. Much of the music they’ve fashioned together is, if less than breathtaking, at least lovely, and there is an audience for it, of that I am certain; I am as certain, however, that the audience does not include me.
Contact:A–Records, P.O. Box 540, 6800 AM Arnhem, The Netherlands. Web site, www.challenge.nl