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United Women's Orchestra: UWO

Jack Bowers By

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This is the earlier of two CDs by Germany’s forward–leaning United Women’s Orchestra; for an appraisal of its more recent release (The Blue One), see the June ’99 big–band reviews. This is uncompromisingly sophisticated music in a Charles Mingus/Gil Evans/Maria Schneider groove, and not for the faint of heart. The compositions — by co–leaders Leach (four) and Fuchs (three) — are richly textured and absorbing tone poems, unsparingly swathed in polyrhythms and counterpoint, and the UWO unravels them flawlessly. Leach and Fuchs know how to enwrap an orchestra in sumptuous finery, and the ensemble passages are consistently engaging. Soloists, on the other hand, are undeniably an acquired taste, and it is during moments of improvisation that one’s enthusiasm is most apt to wane. Leach’s “Tulip Wonder,” which introduces the session, is a cheerful swinger that is moderately weakened by Pastuszyk’s squawling bass clarinet passages. “Mabel’s Birthday,” set to a charming Latin beat, fares somewhat better, thanks to more restrained blowing by saxophonists Danzer (alto) and Goosman (soprano). “A Sting in the Tale” is an enchanting ballad with vocalese (and vocal) by Didderiëns and admirable solos by Goosman (clarinet), pianist Ilgner and Fuchs, whose grating tenor solo on the medium–tempo “Moonlight Flit” is considerably less pleasing, at least to these ears. Fuchs redeems herself with two charming compositions, “Survivor’s Suite” and “Double–XX–Trix,” each of which dances playfully to an insistent rhythmic pulse. While I found the funky, clamorous “Timeghost” less satisfying (despite some relatively convincing alto work by Dantzler), that may be more a matter of personal taste than intrinsic merit. What is undeniable, in each of its two recordings to date, is the United Women’s Orchestra’s remarkable musicianship and commitment to excellence. Gone are the days when women in Jazz (or soccer) could be taken lightly. When it comes to expressing itself in musical terms, the UWO is as poised and articulate as any ensemble.

Track listing: The Tulip Wonder; Survivor’s Suite; Mabel’s Birthday; A Sting in the Tale; Timeghost; Moonlight Flit; Double–XX–Trix (53:50).


Personnel:

Christina Fuchs, Hazel Leach, composers, arrangers, co

Title: UWO | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: KlangR


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