For the better part of its latest recording, Twisting Ways
, Canada's Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra may as well scrub the word "Jazz" from its name, as the music mostly bears scant resemblance to that time-honored genre. The overall mood may best be described as funereal, epitomizing themes of a mostly exploratory nature, interrupted all too seldom by passages that are more akin to the essence of traditional jazz. As the composers, David Braid
and Philippe Cote
, are well-known and well-respected in Canadian jazz circles, it must be assumed that Twisting Ways
embodies the design they envisioned. In other words, they must have entered the studio with a specific game plan in mind and the orchestra carried it out.
The album consists of the four-part suite "Twisting Ways," with music by Braid ("The Hand") and Cote ("Hope Shadow") and lyrics by Lee Tsang
, followed by Braid's "Lydian Sky" and Cote's "Fleur Variation 3." "The Hand" and "Hope Shadow" are separated by a pair of wordless interludes, "Dialogue" (which has some rhythmic spark but no solos) and "Opening Glimmers" (a tranquil soliloquy by Braid's unaccompanied piano). The vocalists are Sarah Slean
("Twisting Ways") and Karly Epp
("Lydian Sky," "Fleur Variation"). They acquit themselves well, as does the orchestra. The problem lies elsewhere, and is difficult to summarize without stepping on anyone's toes. In brief, to these ears, much of the music is mannered and tedious, even though that clearly was not what the composers had in mind. And, no doubt, there are others who may find it splendid and charming. To each his or her own.
There is some improvisation, by Braid, vibraphonist Stefan Bauer
, bassist Karl Kohut
and especially by tenor saxophonist Mike Murley
who has a lengthy solo (as it turns out, a tad too lengthy) on Braid's cheerless "Lydian Sky." As for the various lyrics, they are surely well-intentioned but straddle a line between anomalous and incomprehensible, save for "Fleur Variation 3," whose vocal is wordless (or sounds so). For comparison's sake, in 1953 MGM released a musical, The Band Wagon
, in which a well-respected Broadway director (played by Jack Buchanan) takes a simple musical comedy and turns it into a garish, overblown catastrophe. While Twisting Ways
is certainly well-removed from that level of chaos, neither does it epitomize the kind of listening experience that hard-core jazz enthusiasts would be apt to welcome and embrace.
Twisting Ways (The Hand/Dialogue/Opening Glimmers/Hope Shadow); Lydian Sky; Fleur
Stefan Bauer: vibraphone; Karl Kohut: bass; Eric Platz: drums; Sarah Slean, Karly Epp: