David Matthews & the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra
Milestone CD MCD-9312-2, 2001
Who's Afraid of the Big Band Bach?
Ben Ohmart, 17 June 2001
A quick gander at the cast list will tell you that yes, they've got enough wind to attempt (and pull off) another classical-turns-jazz genre splitter. For those of you don't appreciate anyone screwing with "Air on a G String" and like compositions that you feel are already set in stone, turn off now. This ain't for you.
But if you're ready to swing with the big bands, catch an ear on the opening "Toccata and Fugue" and everything, really. The brass is bold and recorded loud (just setting the CD on a minimum volume will easily withdraw every confident note). Almost too loud, but not quite. Even the semi-indolent "Air on the G String" does not go quietly into the night, but bites at every horn's turn.
Some might criticize the number of players outweighing the passion; like those who prefer a six-person cast off-Broadway play to the million-buck night of a Phantom of the Opera. But when they know how to roll the jazz, pitching a little slice of everything from Dixieland to smooth samba, an increased payroll only means more of what you like.
David Matthews arranged and conducted this album, so don't fear if you don't see his lips on a piece of instrument. Every sputter of bass from "Fugue No. 2" is his ultimate doing; all opening crashes (see "Kyrie" for schooling in that) are due to his polished and waxless ear. He does manage to squeeze a lot of screaming style out of so many brassters, and therein lies his genius.
My personal favorite is "Invention No. 4." Perhaps because it reminds me of those rolling "Hooked On..." things from 30 years ago, back when the sound was so fresh to the point of novelty, like a swift Burt Bacharach instrumental. Takes you back to the good ol' days without, frankly, ever dating itself (regardless of what I just said).
Sound interesting? It be! Definitely worth a fast and furious run-through, you '40s hep cats.
Seven rounds against
the champ. J. S. vanishes
midway through the first.
performers Lew Soloff, Ryan Kisor, Joe Shepley, Scott Wendholt, trumpets; Jim Pugh, Larry Farrell, Birch Johnson, trombones; David Taylor, bass trombone; Fred Griffen, John Clark, French horns; Tony Price, tuba; Chris Hunger, alto sax, flute; Bill Evans, soprano & tenor saxes, flute; Roger Rosenberg, bass clarinet; Chip Jackson, bass; Terry Silverlight, drums
songs Toccata and Fugue · Air on the G String · Invention No. 4 · Kyrie · Minuet (A Lover's Concerto) · Siciliano · Fugue No. 2