The Blue One
is the debut recording by the well–schooled United Women’s Orchestra, a forward–leaning all–female ensemble from Cologne, Germany. Co–leaders Christina Fuchs (three) and Hazel Leach (four) composed and arranged all of the songs, and they shadow closely the groundbreaking endeavors of such respected contemporaries as Carla Bley and Maria Schneider. All of the musicians save Leach and guest vocalist Christine Duncan are from Germany; Leach came to the UWO from Arnhem in the Netherlands, while Duncan hails from Vancouver, Canada. I don’t know (nor do I care) where or how these women learned their craft, but they are, both individually and collectively, exemplary musicians, even though the music itself isn’t always what I would choose to hear. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes or bruise any feelings, but Leach’s compositions are, to me, the more agreeable and persuasive. While her songs embody substantial depth, she sacrifices neither fundamental lyricism nor rhythmic integrity on its behalf. I found her slow–burning “Torch Song” and well–paved “Siringo Road” especially charming and accessible. Fuchs, an admirable composer in her own right, leans more toward opaque tone–poems (“Serenade for Leonie,” “Netsuke”) that definitely command one’s undivided attention. A striking quality of the session as a whole is that although there are a number of respectable solos, they are invariably subordinate to the designs of the ensemble, which I suspect is how it was planned to be. Guest vocalist Duncan is heard on “Serenade for Leonie” and “Netsuke,” Leigh–Brown on “Self Portrait.” Alto saxophonist Eberhard is present on “Self Portrait” and “Siringo Road,” drummer Bigge on “Lydisch Blau,” Torch Song” and “Tiebreak,” but neither one is accorded any solo space, reinforcing one’s notion that the ensemble is predominant. For the nineteen–member UWO (and its four guests), a smooth, thought–provoking and generally rewarding maiden voyage.
Track listing: Lydisch Blau; Torch Song; Serenade for Leonie; Self Portrait; Netsuke; Siringo Road; Tiebreak (69:43).