Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Renolds Jazz Orchestra: Cube

Shanti Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.3.09
Buy CD: Cube

The Renolds Jazz Orchestra was assembled to perform at the Jazzar Concerts festival in Aarau, Switzerland, in 2005.

This isn't a typical album with a group of tunes, but rather a 10-movement Suite “based on the Deity's great effort to restore peace and union with mankind,” according to the liner notes. If that description is a turn-off, ignore the liner notes and just concentrate on the music.

Myriad jazz influences are involved, including Duke Ellington-related harmonies, Afro-Cuban rhythms and classical structures that echo composers such as Stravinsky and Liszt. Again, if the latter style isn't something that moves you, don't despair; this release has something for every taste.

The orchestra is concert-sized and instrumented. The reed section includes five musicians, each of whom plays multiple instruments; the trumpet/flugelhorn section also has five artists. The rest of the orchestra features three trombonists; a rhythm section consisting of piano, acoustic bass, drums and an additional percussionist; a female vocalist; and a conductor.

All but two of the movements were composed by Fritz Renold, who also plays four different reeds; his wife, Helen Savari-Renold, is the vocalist. The arrangements are quite complex but performed excellently; the musicians had two days of rehearsal prior to the concert and recording sessions.

Many of the musicians hail from Europe and are relatively unknown in the States, with some exceptions; the brass section, for example, includes Randy Brecker.

Some of the movements are balladic in nature, and Savari-Renold is used in the style of several early Ellington arrangements, where the voice is an instrument; others are joyful, up-tempo “flag-wavers” that swing like crazy.

The entire album requires an attentive listener, and you'll find that it grows on you. This is accomplished modern/symphonic jazz.

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