All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

334

Miroslav Vitous: Universal Syncopations II

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
At least one underlying context of the ECM label has been to present jazz where the line between improvisation and composition/arrangement is blurred. When the improvisations are not "jazzy" as the term is commonly understood, it begins to be difficult to discern where the composition ends and the improvisation begins.

This is not to say that the music demands that the listener be able to figure this out, but rather that the composer, instead of presenting a tune or an idea to the band, lays before it an organic structure in which they are to fit. For this kind of piece to be successful, trust has to exist in both directions between the composer and the players.

Jazz, other than free jazz, has been drifting this way for quite a while, and the move away from merely improvising on standards, either old or modern, is now noticeable. One recent example is guitarist Miles Okazaki's Mirror (Independent, 2006), where the scores are complex but, when negotiated by the right players, sound alive and anything but stilted and composed.

Bassist Miroslav Vitous' Universal Syncopations II is an extreme example of this kind of compositional methodology, in that sampled orchestral sounds, which feel very composed, are woven into the improvisational web (or is it the other way around?).

Vitous' Universal Syncopations (ECM, 2003) was enthusiastically received, not only because it marked the bassist's return to ECM after a decade's hiatus, but because it featured a superstar band that played as a unit, and they cooked.

While Vitous is the only connection between the two albums, his extremely strong musical personality, which was the backbone of the previous album, provides the structure and the freedom here, plus, of course, the electronic orchestral "band member."

The main quartet consists of Vitous, Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), Gary Campbell (soprano and tenor sax) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Trumpeter Randy Brecker appears on two tracks with additional guests featured on other tracks.

As if to provide a shock to the ear, "Opera" (the longest track at eleven minutes) contains some of the most overt orchestral music (including chorus), especially at the beginning. Caught unawares, one might be excused for not knowing which music is leading and which is following. Soon however, the band develops its personality, led by a very strong Vitous and drummer Adam Nussbaum, who appears on this track alone.

Once the stage is set by "Opera," the orchestra as just another player, albeit with many colors, is easily accepted, and the whole sound becomes the point. While Vitous says that he added the orchestral parts later, it is quite unclear how much studio post-production has been applied.

The music is of such high quality that Vitous can be excused for the occasional excess, because on the whole, this experiment works very well indeed.


Track Listing: Opera; Breakthrough; The Prayer; Solar Giant Mediterranean Love; Gmoong; Universal Evolution; Moment.

Personnel: Miroslav Vitous: double-bass; Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone (1, 6, 7), bass clarinet (7); Gary Campbell: soprano saxophone (1, 2, 4, 5, 7); tenor saxophone (3); Randy Brecker: trumpet (1, 6); Adam Nussbaum: drums (1); Gerald Cleaver: drums (2-5, 7); Daniele di Bonaventura: bandoneon (5); Bob Malach: tenor saxophone (8); Vesna Vaiko-Ciceres: voice (8).

Title: Universal Syncopations II | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Alive In The East? CD/LP/Track Review
Alive In The East?
by Chris May
Published: June 22, 2018
Read Love Stone CD/LP/Track Review
Love Stone
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 22, 2018
Read Empty Castles CD/LP/Track Review
Empty Castles
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 22, 2018
Read Myths and Morals CD/LP/Track Review
Myths and Morals
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 22, 2018
Read The Sum Of My Pardon CD/LP/Track Review
The Sum Of My Pardon
by Jim Olin
Published: June 22, 2018
Read Postcard Collection CD/LP/Track Review
Postcard Collection
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 21, 2018
Read "Smoke" CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "Moonlight Vision" CD/LP/Track Review Moonlight Vision
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 28, 2017
Read "Beloved" CD/LP/Track Review Beloved
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 10, 2017
Read "Falling Forward" CD/LP/Track Review Falling Forward
by James Nadal
Published: July 27, 2017
Read "Feefifofum Quartet" CD/LP/Track Review Feefifofum Quartet
by James Nadal
Published: July 9, 2017
Read "Submerged" CD/LP/Track Review Submerged
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 9, 2017