The 2004 album Triosphere (Jazz & Arts Records), featuring reedist Steffen Schorn, saxophonist Roger Hanschel and guitarist Dirk Mudelien, points in the direction of the large ensemble work, Three Pictures. Schorn took over the reins of the Zurich Jazz Orchestra in 2014, and for the ensemble he has written and arranged the "Three Pictures Suite," "Africa Suite," and four other high-quality compositionsall highly layered and deftly nuanced works that point back to Triosphere, with a much expanded palette. If Triosphere was a small, deeply-textured oil painting, Three Pictures is a wall- spanning mural, the color brushed on with similar but more expansive techniques.
The Zurich Jazz Orchestra, launched in 1995 as "rehearsal band," has obviously evolved beyond that status. The disc's opener, "Eye Of the Wind," swirls with swooping harmonies that glow with a luminescent, near-Gil Evans delicacy and lightness, punctuated by fine and inspired solos.
"Africa Suite I" is denser and darker. And wilder. It drives hard. An elephant may be heard trumpeting from a sanctuary of impenetrable sonic foliage. The edgy and frantic "Der Wilbotz" is a crazily frantic lean toward the avant-garde that screams out an edge-of-the-seat introduction to the majesty of "The Three Pictures Suite, Part 1." It's a majesty that, in the beginning, slips into mystery painted with deep, interwoven low tones. The suite as a whole is a masterful exploration of tone and color, of brightness and dark grays, of beautiful sweeping harmoniousness and attention-grabbing clamor, of well-rendered solos and finely-crafted ensemble charting.
All this from Steffen Schorn and a former rehearsal band that has evolved into a dynamic and distinctive orchestra.
The Eye Of The Wind; Africa Suite, Part I; Africa Suite, Part II; Africa Suite, Part III; Der Wildbotz I; The Three Pictures Suite: Three Pictures Suite, Part I; Three Pictures Suite, Part II; Three Pictures Suite, Part III. Der Wildbotz II; Keep Your Tongue...; Ballade.
Steffen Schorn: conductor, composer; Reto Anneler (soprano sax; alto sax, baritone sax, flute, alto flute, clarinet; Lukas Heuss: alto sax, baritone sax, clarinet, alto clarinet; Christoph Grab: tenor sax, bassclarinet, flute; Thomas Lüthi: tenor sax, clarinet; Nils Fischer: baritone sax, Eb tubax, bass clarinet, cb clarinet; Patrick Ottiger: trumpet, flugelhorn; Christian Mück; trumpet, flugelhorn; Wolfgang Häuptli: (trumpet, flugelhorn; Bernhard Schoch: trumpet, flugelhorn; Daniel Schenker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Adrian Weber: trombone; René Mosele: trombone; Maurus Twerenbold: trombone; Don Randolph: bass trombone; Gregor Müller: piano, keyboards; Theo Kapilidis: electric guitar; Patrick Sommer: bass, electric bass; Pius Baschnagel: drums.