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VEIN: VEIN plays Ravel

Dan McClenaghan By

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Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), the classical French composer/arranger, was an early embracer of jazz. He included elements of the then new music into some of his own later compositions. Jazz has—since the 1940s, initially under the guise of what became called the Third Stream, pioneered in part by Gunther Schuller—often married classical stylings with the quintessentially American  music that got its start down in New Orleans.

The Swiss trio VEIN has gone full immersion with the classical side, taking Maurice Ravel's music and treating it with a flexible reverence, applying their modern VEIN-ian stamp on the  French composer's now near-century old music, with Vein Plays Ravel.

The group VEIN is a piano trio—twin brother Michael and Florian Arbenz—piano and drum, respectively—and bassist Thomas Lahns. The trio, in these particular hands, proves itself an exceptionally adept vehicle for interpretation of the classical canon. The three part "Le Tombeau de Couperin" brims with a majestic grandeur with Part 1, "Prelude;" the music shifts into a solemn, introspective mode on "Forlane," and closes on a fervid, jittery, percussive note on "Tocatta," all laid down with adept interplay and forward-leaning spirit. "Blues" has a melancholy hue, with some gorgeous and sporadic (rather than rhythmic) castanet-like percussion.

With Ravel's perhaps most famous composition, "Bolero," VEIN bolsters the ensemble with a quintet of reed and brass instruments, and creates the set's highlight. Andy Sheppard's saxophone takes the initial lead on this sixteen minute-plus jewel. Opening with a spare approach—the trio displaying a perfect cohesion—measured brass and reed solos follow, then multi-horn interplay as subtle (initially; it evolves into the gutsy and anthemic) and as inspired, arrangement-wise, as you'll hear, from Ellington through Gil Evans to VEIN and Company.

The music of Maurice Ravel proves itself a prime inspiration for the group VEIN and its guests.   

Track Listing: Prelude; Forlane; Toccata; Blues; Bolero; Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte; Movement De Minuet; 5 O'Clock Foxtrott

Personnel: Michael Arbenz: Piano; Thomas Lähns: Bass; Florian Arbenz: Drums;

Title: VEIN plays Ravel | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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