Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vince Mendoza: Blauklang

ACT Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 7.2.09
Buy CD: Blauklang

Veteran composer/arranger Vince Mendoza has worked with Bjork, Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello. This album — Blauklang is German for “Bluesound” — teams Mendoza with 15 top-class musicians from Europe and the WDR Big Band.

Most of the musicians aren't likely to be familiar, except perhaps Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson, trumpeter Markus Stockhausen and Vietnamese-French guitarist Nguyen Le.

The instrumentation also includes three reed players (clarinets and saxes), French horn, tuba, harp, vibraphone, drums and a string quartet (cello and three violins). The result is true, classical, concert-hall jazz: both beautiful and genuinely swinging.

These 14 tracks were arranged by Mendoza, who also composed and all but three; the exceptions include Miles Davis' “All Blues” and Gil Evans' “Blues For Pablo.” The album opens with the former, in an arrangement that demonstrates what a marvelous tune Davis composed: It's moving no matter what style it's played in.

The final six tracks are movements of Mendoza's “Bluesounds Suite”; all are riveting, and the finale is a truly torrid flag-waver.

Mendoza's talent is demonstrated by the marvelous way he integrates his orchestra's unusual instrumentation. The strings, tuba, French horn and harp beautifully compliment the brass, reed and rhythm sections. They aren't a gimmick; they genuinely belong.

This is one of the most moving albums I've ever heard; it would mesmerize an audience at any concert hall.

No comments: