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Jan Mulder and the Jazz Winds Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Soundscapes

Jim Olin By

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It opens with crackling fire, a ferocious roar of Mother Nature. Against the cookie-cutter atmosphere of much contemporary jazz, "The Thunderstorm" is a startling anomaly; jazz songs don't usually open to bolts of electricity. But straying from the norm is at the heart of Soundscapes, the new album from Jan Mulder and the Jazz Winds Chamber Jazz Ensemble. It's a concept album -the tracks are labeled as suites -without a straightforward narrative yet tell a story in images of the mind, of vivid portraits of the environment: insects; animals; and even the weather. It could easily have been a soundtrack of a Brazilian forest, and it's just as beautiful.

The aforementioned "The Thunderstorm" certainly conveys the power and fury of its subject through the intense chemistry of Mulder and his band. Robin Tufts' pummeling drums create a sonic boom of their own; they fuel the beat forward, producing a breathless tempo. Aaron Scholpp's pumping bass adds heat to the already scorching rhythm section. Trish Edwards' piano, relaxed at first, hits an infectious groove midway through.

The quirkiness of Mulder's vision keeps the album highly engaging through repeated spins; there's never a dull moment. Vibrant sax, punchy bass, and rambunctious piano certainly echo the untamed personality of "The Baboon." Mulder's ability to vividly draw the essence of his unusual characters gives the music a strikingly imaginative context. This is thinking man's jazz, composed and performed with youthful exuberance.

Track Listing: The River; The Bullfrog; The Moose; The Cricket; The Baboon; The Thunderstorm.

Personnel: Cédric Blary: clarinet, flute, and saxophone; Jan Mulder: clarinet and saxophone; Frank Rackow: clarinet and saxophone; Trish Edwards: piano; Aaron Scholpp: bass; Robin Tufts: drums.

Title: Soundscapes | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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