Buddy Rich: In a Zone of His Own
"Wheeling Around That SO.FI," for example, is sheer beauty, with shapely solo work by pianist Manuel Schmiedel and trombonist Simon Harrer, whereas "Lotus Flower," which follows, includes passages that emulate the sounds of a race car and other exotic contrivances, meanwhile changing mood and tempo to suit the moment. Again, the trombone (Phil Yaeger) is prominent, as are Schmolzer's ever-persuasive drums. Soloists as a rule are quite good within the compass of Schmolzer's precepts, with bassist Andreas Waelti and trumpeter Matthias Spillmann enhancing the translucent "Miraculous Loss of Signal." The penultimate "Enacted Disorder" is more trim than untidy, while the skittish "Hurdles" gives vibraphonist Raphael Meinhart a chance to shine, which he does. The opening numbers, "A Forwaholic's Passion," Parts 1 and 2, present a foretaste of Schmolzer's perspective and what is yet to come. Webster's has no definition of "forwaholic." If the disc is allowed to play for a minute or so after the end of "Hurdles," there's a brief "bonus track" wherein the band sings "happy birthday" to Schmolzer.
As noted, an album not suited to everyone's taste, but one that should reward any listener with an open mind who is pleased to explore bright new avenues and to travel wherever they may lead.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University's Jazz Orchestra is no stranger to recording game plans and techniques, having produced half a dozen superb albums prior to the latest one, Front Burner, which was recorded live (no dubs or intercuts) either on-campus in Richmond, VA (four concerts) or at the Notre Dame Intercollegiate Jazz Festival (three tracks) in March 2012. The orchestra performs ably on eight of eleven numbers, complementing two by the Faculty Jazz Septet and another by the VCU Small Jazz Ensemble.
If the main song's name sounds familiar that's probably because it was written by the eminent Sammy Nestico, to whom the album is dedicated. While that's the only Nestico composition on the menu the album doesn't suffer for it, with master works by Bob Mintzer, Thad Jones, Randy Brecker, Michael Philip Mossman, Billy Strayhorn, Gordon Goodwin, Wayne Shorter and others on tap to overcome the breach. Trumpeter and artist in residence John D'earth goes beyond Strayhorn to sketch "Some Graffiti on the 'A' Train" for the faculty septet. The orchestra makes it known from the opening measures of Mintzer's impetuous "Runferyerlife" that it has no problem, either individually or collectively, keeping pace with the demands of a live recording. Having guest John Riley manning the drum kit certainly doesn't hurt the cause. He's present as well, this time wielding brushes and sticks, on Jones' groovy "Second Race," which leads nicely into Brecker's lyrical "Tijuca," Mossman's Latin showpiece, "Cubauza," Strayhorn's mournful "Blood Count" and the zephyr-like "Front Burner."
The small jazz ensemble (a quintet) swings through tenor saxophonist Myrick Crampton's Middle Eastern flavored "No Waddi" before the orchestra returns to perform student Allen Wittig's lively "Armando's Big Band" and Goodwin's powerful "Swingin' for the Fences" (a.k.a. "Sweet Georgia Brown") and the faculty septet wraps things up with Shorter's "Lost" and D'earth's colorful "Graffiti." Crampton, whose plain-spoken style calls to mind Mintzer, among others, leads a phalanx of resourceful and engaging undergrad soloists that includes trumpeters Victor Haskins and Ben Heemstra, trombonist Chris Bates, pianist Brian Mahne, alto Brendan Schnabel, baritone Trey Sorrells, bassist Andrew Randazzo and drummer C.J. Wolfe. For concert performances, over-all sound quality is well above average. Another first-rate album from the VCU orchestra and its able director, Anthony Garcia.
Sight and Sound
Blue Flame: Portrait of a Jazz Legend