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

More Articles

Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Bright Yellow with Bass CD/LP/Track Review Bright Yellow with Bass
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Jorg Schippa's Kiosk" CD/LP/Track Review Jorg Schippa's Kiosk
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Hear & Now" CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Falling Forward" CD/LP/Track Review Falling Forward
by James Nadal
Published: July 27, 2017
Read "Mt. Crushmore" CD/LP/Track Review Mt. Crushmore
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 8, 2017
Read "Bach: Solo Works for Marimba" CD/LP/Track Review Bach: Solo Works for Marimba
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 15, 2017
Read "Radioactive Landscapes EP" CD/LP/Track Review Radioactive Landscapes EP
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 24, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.