The resourceful Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, which is quite adept a cooking up appetizing straight–ahead big–band Jazz but prefers a more piquant menu, varies the ingredients for maximum taste appeal on Ways of Seeing,
a concert performance recorded in October ’97 at Sydney, Australia’s leading Jazz club, The Basement. The easily digested mainstream fare (“This Bass Was Made for Walking,” “I Think I’d Better Dance Now,” “Wild Bill,” even John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord”) is accompanied by a trio of charts that are sometimes harder to swallow — guitarist Chico Lindvall’s “Radio–Passive” and tenor saxophonist Tomas Franck’s “Ways of Seeing” and “Pathfinder.” Whatever its frame of reference, however, the orchestra is unmistakably world–class in every respect, as one would expect from an ensemble that has been on the scene for more than three decades (until 1995 as the Danish Radio Big Band) and is home to some of the most accomplished Jazz musicians its country has to offer. Even though the music veers occasionally from midstream, the DRJO is always on top of its game, breathing life into every phrase with a persuasive combination of poise and power. Resourceful soloists abound, with tenor Uffe Markussen especially memorable on Trane’s haunting ballad “Dear Lord.” Others who are given space and seize the moment include Lindvall, Franck, trumpeters Pedersen and Togeby, trombonists Hansen and Nilsson, alto Hove, pianist Bentzon, drummer Johansen and bassist Ovesen, whose booming voice invigorates Thad Jones’ amiable blues, “This Bass Was Made for Walking” (in one person’s humble opinion the disc’s most rewarding track). After “Walking,” the orchestra sways to funk–disco rhythms on Bertzon’s “I Think I’d Better Dance Now,” then dashes flat–out through American expatriate Ray Pitts’ explosive archetype of big–band swing, “Wild Bill” (whose riffs at one point sound much like an old western tune, “The Navajo Trail”). Franck’s charts, which close the concert, are atmospheric pieces whose singular voicings are punctuated by intervals of in–the–pocket lyricism (as, for example, his warm–blooded tenor solo on “Ways of Seeing”). “Pathfinder” swings hard, thanks in large part to drummer Johansen’s sure–handed time–keeping, and includes respectable solos by Pedersen and Franck. An impressive and for the most part agreeable concert date by one of Europe’s leading Jazz orchestras.
Track listing: Radio–Passive; Dear Lord; This Bass Was Made for Walking; I Think I’d Better Dance Now; Wild Bill; Ways of Seeing; The Pathfinder (69:10).