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Westchester Jazz Orchestra / Sandvika Storband / Band of Bones


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Westchester Jazz Orchestra

Maiden Voyage Suite



The heavy-hitting Westchester Jazz Orchestra, one of whose ambitions under artistic director Mike Holober is to broaden its musical horizons, devotes its second album to renovating for a sixteen-member ensemble the music of pianist Herbie Hancock's classic recording Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1964). The resulting nine-part suite, with arrangements by Holober, Pete McGuinness and WJO stalwarts Jay Brandford and Tony Kadleck, gives Hancock's themes their due as it adds the color and excitement that only a big band can provide.

The orchestra's strength lies in its collective experience and individual brilliance, which together leave no doubt that Hancock's masterwork is in the best of hands. The ensemble is sharp and resourceful, the soloists no less so on a series of engaging tone poems that are preceded, intersected and followed, respectively, by a Prologue, Interlude and Epilogue, all tastefully arranged by Holober. The tranquil "Prologue" leads to McGuinness' attentive treatment of "Maiden Voyage," whose well-known melody paves the way for crisp solos courtesy of David Brandom's nimble soprano saxophone and Marvin Stamm's seductive flugelhorn. Stamm returns, this time on trumpet, with tenor Jason Rigby to brave the turbulent "Eye of the Hurricane." Brandford arranged the decorous "Little One," on which he shares blowing space with trombonist Larry Farrell and bassist Harvie S.

The ensemble shifts into high gear for "Survival of the Fittest," Parts 1 and 2, the first of which showcases trumpeter Jim Rotondi and pianist Ted Rosenthal, the second Rotondi and Rigby in a series of heated duels that may produce no winner but enkindle plenty of fireworks. "Dolphin Dance," one of Hancock's most captivating melodies, presages the evocative Epilogue, with perceptive statements on the former by Rotondi, Rosenthal and tenor Ralph Lalama, on the latter by Rigby and Rotondi. The WJO's enterprising rhythm section is securely anchored by drummer Andy Watson.

Those who are familiar with Maiden Voyage should be delighted to envision Hancock's magnum opus in a splendid new wardrobe, while for those who aren't, the Maiden Voyage Suite provides a splendid introduction to a jazz touchstone that has stood the test of time.

Sandvika Storband

A Novel Approach

Sandvika Storband


A Novel Approach, the latest enterprise by Sweden's admirable Sandvika Storband, marks the ensemble's fortieth anniversary by showcasing the music of trumpeter Mathias Eick and guitarist Jacob Young and, to a lesser extent, the arranging talents of Oyvind Braekke who served as Sandvika's second trombone from 1988-91. Eick wrote four of the album's nine selections and solos on half a dozen, while Young composed the others and solos on as many. As for Braekke, he arranged Eick's compositions and co-arranged the others with Young.

The music itself is by and large cerebral and even-tempered, as befits its Nordic provenance. In other words, if you are looking for intensity or turbulence, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, it is depth and beauty you are seeking, there's an abundance of those ingredients on every number. Tempos, with one exception (Eick's "October") are leisurely to moderate, colors warm and seductive. Eicke and Young are accomplished soloists whose perceptive comments are well-suited to the music's mellow temperament, as are Braekke's on "St. Ella" and "October." Elsewhere, there are concise yet effective statements by trombonist Auden Breen ("The Promise"), bassist Jan Olav Renvag ("St. Ella"), pianist Havard Graff ("Mr. Cosmopolitan," "Williamsburg," "Endings"), Renvag, tenor Biorn Barlo and guitarist Sverre Hanstad ("Endings").

Brass and reeds are burnished and orderly, the rhythm section sharp and attentive, thanks to the earnest supervision of conductor / music director Frank Brodahl. Unlike Sandvika's previous albums, which for the most part have been straight-ahead and swinging, A Novel Approach is geared toward those who appreciate big-band music with ample meat on its bones. Not always easy to chew but once digested it should assuage even the most fastidious appetites.

Band of Bones

Band of Bones



No, Band of Bones is not the skeletal remains of an ill-fated jazz ensemble that has enlisted in that euphonious concourse in the sky; it is in fact a viable turbo-charged group comprised of nine trombones and rhythm. If that seems like overkill (pun intended), the notion is immediately laid to rest as the BoB scampers eagerly into its debut album's animated opening number, Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me." Clearly, these are no dry bones (if you'll pardon the indulgence) but an alliance of accomplished musicians (ably led by Dave Chamberlain) most of whom happen to play the trombone (and play it remarkably well).

True, there are no trumpets or saxophones on the premises, but these 'bones are so solid, and the charts so engaging, that their absence quickly becomes a non-issue. In other words, these are (wait for it . . . !) undeniably hip 'bones, and are a pleasure to hear and groove on. Three of the charts, it should be noted, are by J.J. Johnson, two others by Wayne Andre. Pianist Kenny Ascher wrote and arranged the buoyant "Love Again" (for the rhythm section only) to complement originals by Frank Wess (the Count Basie-inspired "Segue in C"), Bill Whited ("Bonin'") and Moises Simon ("El Manisero"—in English, "The Peanut Vendor") arranged by Chamberlain. Johnson scored Dizzy Gillespie's oft-scanned "Night in Tunisia," the standard "No Moon at All" and his own "Four Plus Four," Andre "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and David Raksin's "Laura." The other charts are by Kai Winding ("It's All Right with Me"), James Zeller (Cedar Walton's "Bolivia"), Nate Mayland ("Dear Old Stockholm"), Bob Suttmann ("The Girl from Ipanema") and Dick Lieb ("Stardust"). Needless to say, the band presses home the best in each of them.

While tenor trombones are the rule, Chamberlain adds color with an agile flute solo (shadowing Bruce Eidem's throaty plunger) on "Segue in C," and Eidem takes a muted solo on "Bolivia" (following zesty statements by Chamberlain, Suttmann, Mayland and Charley Gordon). If "Love Again" is the rhythm section's reward for its steadfastness, it is well-earned, as Ascher and his colleagues (bassist Dick Sarpola, drummer Mike Campenni and percussionist Chembo Corniel) provide unflagging support on every number—and Ascher tosses a number of charming solos into the mix.

How many trombones are too many? That's hard to say, but these nine are precisely enough to manage the task at hand, which was conceived as a tribute to Kai and J.J. The Band of Bones is most assuredly not "too much of a good thing," an appraisal endorsed in the liner notes by another pretty fair trombonist, John Fedchock. Even though the band itself is decidedly down-to-earth, trombone enthusiasts may find themselves elevated to higher realms while listening to this empyrean album.

Renolds Jazz Orchestra

Three Penny Opera: Live in Aarau

Shanti Records


Renolds Jazz Orchestra's Three Penny Opera was recorded in Aarau, Switzerland, in 2000 to mark the centennial of the composer Kurt Weill's birth. The mystery is why it took eleven years for this lustrous and engaging two-disc concert set to be released. This new look at Weill is a pleasure to hear from start to finish, and is immeasurably enhanced by the presence of a number of American visitors including trumpeters Randy Brecker, Wayne Bergeron and the late Barrie Lee Hall Jr.; saxophonists Bobby Watson, Walt Weiskopf and Shelley Carrol; trombonists Vincent Gardner, Tom Garling and Buster Cooper; pianist Christian Jacob and drummer Victor Lewis. When considering the idea of recording Weill and librettist Berthold Brecht's masterwork, leader / saxophonist Fritz Renold decided to place the task of rearranging the sweeping score in the capable hands of his long-time friend and musical partner, Jacob, which proved to be a wise decision. The Three Penny Opera always had a heart; it now has a soul to underline its redemptive message.

Jacob's charts are perceptive and entertaining, and the orchestra gives them their due with a performance that breathes fresh life into every number. While soloists aren't named, that is surely Watson delivering a breathtaking alto solo on the opera's signature theme, "Mack the Knife" (after which bassist Miroslav Vitous' closing remarks, even though admirable in their own right, are rendered anti-climactic). Brecker and Weiskopf are prominently featured, and there is suitable blowing space along the way for Lewis ("The Riding Messenger"), Hall ("What Keeps a Man Alive"), Garling, Carrol, Jacob, baritone saxophonist Bernd Konrad, and, presumably, Renold himself on alto and / or soprano. Onstage, the musicians were dressed as beggars in mismatched outfits that must have helped make the presentation even more pleasing and persuasive for the audience.

Once the Three Penny Opera score has been thoroughly canvassed and renovated and the "Final Verses of the Ballad" have been played, the orchestra appends a twelve-minute encore, "Warehouse Blues," written by Renold and arranged by Adi Yeshaya. While not from the opera, it maintains the Weill / Brecht spirit, skimming merrily along behind iridescent solos by Jacob, Watson, Weiskopf, Carrol and others along with superior lead trumpet work by Bergeron (who is awesome throughout). Even though more people have perchance heard about the Three Penny Opera (thanks to "Mack the Knife") than have actually seen the play from end to end, it did not secure its place among the classics for "Mack" alone; there's a wealth of charming music in its admirable score, and the Renolds Orchestra embraces and enlivens every measure.

Dietrich Koch Big Band

Berlin Cookbook



Berlin Cookbook alludes to bandleader Dietrich Koch whose name in German rhymes with "cook." It's entirely appropriate, as Koch's band really does cook, even on the vocal numbers ("Schneeschmelze," "Ritmo de Vida"). The band's debut album opens with a vocal version of "Schneeschmelze" (in English, "Thaw"), nicely sung by Maria Helmin, and closes with a lively instrumental reading of the same tune. Mayelis Guyat is the vocalist (in Spanish) on "Ritmo de Vida," whose rhythmic patterns vary between salsa and light rock. Lyrics to both songs are included in the accompanying booklet, "Schneeschmelze" in English, "Ritmo" in Spanish.

Elsewhere, the band firmly is in charge throughout a varied program that consists of seven of Koch's original compositions (he also wrote the vocal numbers) and pianist Bobby Timmons' jazz waltz, "This Here" (arranged by Koch). Besides attending to his other duties, Koch adds seductive alto solos on "Vergessenes Volkslied," "Groovin' Low," Einblick" "Mama Vieja" and "This Here." As cooking has been mentioned, the numbers that do so most emphatically should be singled out. They include the rollicking "Mama Vieja" (robust solos by Koch, baritone Oliver Busch and trombonist Petra Krumphuber), Basie-style "Blues for Sakis" (spotlighting pianist Jesse Milliner, flugel Eddie Hayes, trombonist Ralf Zicke and alto Gregoire Peters) and aforementioned "Schneeschmelze" (a fast-moving jazz waltz on which Milliner and the rhythm section smolder behind an unlisted tenor, either Hacker or Mark Wyand).

Swathed in a more even-tempered mood are Koch's insouciant bossa "Why Worry" (solos by Milliner, Zicke, Hayes, Koch [soprano] and guitarist Hans Fahling), the Afro-Cuban waltz "Vergessenes Folklied" (Koch, bassist Peter Stojanov, flugel Achim Rothe), catchy "Groovin' Low" and the ballad "Einblick" (Milliner, Koch). On every number, soloists are given ample space to stretch out and have their say, for the most part yielding pleasurable results. At seventy-eight minutes, Berlin Cookbook gives more than full value for the money. Even better, the music itself is consistently resourceful and engaging, which ensures an earnest endorsement.

Tracks and Personnel

Maiden Voyage Suite

Tracks: Prologue; Maiden Voyage; Eye of the Hurricane; Little One; Interlude; Survival of the Fittest—Part 1; Survival of the Fittest—Part 2; Dolphin Dance; Epilogue.

Personnel: Mike Holober: artistic director, conductor; Tony Kadleck: trumpet, flugelhorn; Craig Johnson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jim Rotondi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jay Brandford: alto, soprano sax; David Brandom: alto, soprano sax; Ralph Lalama: tenor sax; Jason Rigby: tenor sax; Ed Xiques: baritone sax; Larry Dean Farrell: trombone; Keith O'Quinn: trombone; Bruce Eidem: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Ted Rosenthal: piano; Harvie S: bass; Andy Watson: drums.

A Novel Approach

Tracks: Biermann; The Promise; St. Ella; December; Mr. Cosmopolitan; Near South End; October; Williamsburg; Endings.

Personnel: Frank Brodahl: music director, conductor; Bjorn Asper: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kim Koffeld: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andreas Lovold: trumpet, flugelhorn; Axel Vetlesen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kare Lochsen: alto, soprano sax, piccolo, flute, clarinet; Sissel Meinseth: alto sax, flute, alto flute; Bjorn Barlo: tenor, soprano sax, flute; Hallvard Nyrud: tenor, soprano sax, flute; Jon Bakkelund: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Audun Oksendal: trombone; Audun Breen: trombone; Bjorn Tveoy: trombone; Oistein Vethe: bass trombone; Havard Graff: piano; Sverre Hanstadt: guitar; Jan Olav Renvag: bass; Borre Arveng: drums. Guests: Mathias Eick: composer, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jacob Young: composer, arranger, guitar; Oyvind Braekke: arranger, trombone.

Band of Bones

Tracks: It's All Right with Me; Four Plus Four; Bolivia; A Night in Tunisia; Laura; Getting Sentimental Over You; Dear Old Stockholm; Love Again; No Moon at All; Segue in C; The Girl from Ipanema; Stardust; Bonin'; El Manisero.

Personnel: Dave Chamberlain: leader, trombone, flute, percussion; Bruce Eidem: trombone; Charley Gordon: trombone; Mike Lormand: trombone; Nate Mayland: trombone; Matt McDonald: trombone; Bob Suttmann: trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone; Dale Turk: bass trombone; Kenny Ascher: piano; Dick Sarpola: bass; Mike Campenni: drums; Chembo Corniel: congas, cowbells.

Three Penny Opera

Tracks: CD1: Overture; Mack the Knife; Mr. Peachum's Morning Hymn; Instead of Song; Wedding Song for the Poor; Cannon Song; Love Song; Barbara Song; The Uncertainty of Human Conditions; Polly's Farewell Song; The Ballad of Sexual Dependency; Pirate Jenny. CD2: The Procurer's Ballad; The Ballad of the Pleasant Living; The Jealous Duet; Fight About the Property; What Keeps a Man Alive; The Song About Inadequacy; Song of Solomon; Call from the Grave; Macheath Asks for Forgiveness; The Riding Messenger; Three Penny Finale; The Final Verses of the Ballad; Warehouse Blues.

Personnel: Fritz Renold: leader, alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet, flugelhorn; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Barrie Lee Hall: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Albert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bobby Watson: alto, soprano sax, flute; Walt Weiskopf: tenor, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Shelley Carrol: tenor, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Bernd Konrad: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Tom Garling: trombone; Buster Cooper: trombone; Christian Jacob: piano; Miroslav Vitous: bass; Victor Lewis: drums.

Berlin Cookbook

Tracks: Schneeschmelze / Thaw (vocal); Why Worry; Ritmo de Vida; Vergessenes Volkslied / Forgotten Folksong); Groovin Low; Einblick /Insight; Mama Vieja; This Here; Blues for Sakis; Schneeschmelze (instrumental).

Personnel: Dietrich Koch: leader, composer, arranger, soprano, alto sax; clarinet; flute; Skip Reinhard: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Bowen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Achim Rothe: trumpet, flugelhorn; Eddie Hayes: trumpet, flugelhorn (1-7, 9, 10); Matthias Harig: trumpet (8); Gregoire Peters: alto sax, clarinet, flute; Mark Wyand: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Max Hacker: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Oliver Busch: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Ralf Zickerick: trombone; Friedrich Milz: trombone; Petra Krumphuber: trombone; Otwin Zipp: bass trombone; Jesse Milliner: piano; Hans Fahling: guitar; Peter Stojanov: bass; Marcin Lonak: drums; Andreas Weiser: percussion; Maria Helmin: vocal (1); Mayelis Guyat: vocal (3).

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