Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Big Band Jazz CD of the Month - "Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist: Together"

Big Band Jazz CD of the Month
Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist with UMO Jazz Orchestra: "Together" 
Rating: ***** (musical performance & sonic quality)

Produced by Mats Holmquist and Willem Bleeker
Recorded on March 15-16, 2018 by Willem Bleeker @ Finnvox Studios (Helsinki, Finland)
Additional engineering by Ada Rovatti
Mixed in April-May 2018 @ Baggpipe Studios (Stockholm, Sweden) by Willem Bleeker and Mats Holmquist
Mastered on June 13, 2018 @ Cutting Room Studios (Stockholm, Sweden) by Björn Engelmann
Cover Painting: Erik Hardstedt

Featuring: Mats Holmquist: composer, arranger, conductor; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn. UMO Jazz Orchestra – Teemu Mattsson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Timo Paasonen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mikko Pettinen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tero Saarti: trumpet, flugelhorn; Janne Toivonen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jakob Gudmundsson: trumpet (1, 3-5, 8); Ville Vannemaa: alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Mikko Makinen: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Teemu Salminen: tenor sax, clarinet; Max Zenger: tenor sax, flute; Pepa Paivinen: baritone sax, flute; Heikki Tuhkanene: trombone; Mikko Mustonen: trombone; Juho Viljanen: trombone; Mikael Langbacka: bass trombone; Mikel Ulfberg: guitar; Seppo Kantonen: piano; Juho Kivivuori: bass; Markus Ketola: drums.

“I think you’ll really enjoy this CD there are absolutely no dull moments, you are going to be taken on the ride of a lifetime, so enjoy it and let me know when you come back to Earth!”  – Randy Brecker.   
Randy Brecker, the best jazz trumpeter alive, is back in "lead large Jazz Ensemble form" with Mats Holmquist’s incredible writing and arrangements for Finland's UMO Jazz Orchestra. The results are beyond words. At 1m56s of the opening track, Brecker plays one of his signature phrases and everythings becomes magical. He flies on top of Holmquist's scores, which are full of inventiveness, surprising the listener throughout the album. I couldn't imagine that someone could surprise me doing renditions of such Chick Corea tunes as "Windows" (on its best version since Flora Purim's and Hubert Laws' renditions in the 70s) and "Crystal Silence" (an evergreen from the 1972 self-titled Return To Forver debut album, and a few years later documented on a famous Corea-Gary Burton duo project), but Brecker & Holmquist succeeded on that impossible mission, masterfully re-working them.

This CD also features a third Corea gem, "Humpty Dumpty" (maybe the greatest theme from the underrated 1978 masterpiece "The Mad Hatter"); three compositions and one arrangement written in the late eighties: “One Million Circumstances,” “Summer and Winter,” “Always Young,” “Never Let Me Go”; and two new re-compositions based on a couple of famous standards: “My Stella” (a Fantasy on “Stella by Starlight”) and “All My Things” (“All the Things You Are”).

UMO Jazz Orchestra is the only professional orchestra in Finland specialized in jazz and new rhythm-oriented music. The big band of 16 musicians plays about 80 concerts every year in Finland and abroad. The orchestra plays a diverse range of modern music that is on the pulse of the times. These arrangements all have little (and not so little) twists and turns that keep you on your toes at all times.

The arrangers' ‘impressions’ or minimalistic versions of so-called standards "Stella By Starlight’ (both Randy and Mats have daughters named Stella by the way), and "All the Things you Are" which are re-imagined with delightful results, plus the beautiful Ray Evans- Jay Livingston ballad "Never Let Me Go," and then three Mats' original compositions: "One Million Circumstances," "Always Young," and "Summer and Winter," each quite challenging in their own way.

Randy Brecker has been shaping the sound of music for decades. His performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from Dreams, Michel Legrand, João Donato, George Benson and the CTI All Stars to James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Chaka Khan, Eliane Elias, Ada Rovatti and Parliament-Funkadelic, besides two Grammy winning albums on Summit & MAMA Records. I've been Randy's fan for over 4 decades, and he never ceases to amaze me. Together with Mats Holmquist and the UMO Jazz Orchestra, he just did it again.

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