Brecker Gets Together With the UMO Jazz Orchestra

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TOGETHER / HOLMQUIST: One Million Circumstances. Summer and Winter. All My Things. My Stella. Always Young. EVANS-LIVINGSTON: Never Let Me Go. COREA: Windows. Crystal Silence. Humpty Dumpty / Randy Brecker, tpt with the UMO Jazz Orchestra: Teemu Matsson, Timo Paasonen, Mikko Pettinen, Tero Saarti, Jakob Gudmundsson, Janne Toivonen, tpt/fl-hn; Heikki Tuhkahnen, Mikko Mustonen, Juho Viljanen, tb; Mikael Längbacka, bs-tb; Ville Vannemaa, a-sax/s-sax/cl; Mikko Mäkinen, a-sax/s-sax/cl/fl; Teemu Salminen, t-sax/cl; Max Zenger, t-sax/fl; Pepa Pävinen, bar-sax/fl; Mikel Ulfberg, gtr; Seppo Kantonen, pno; Juho Kivivuori, bs; Markus Ketola, dm / Mama Records 1056

Trumpeter Randy Brecker was contacted by Mats Holmquist, leader of Finland’s UMO Jazz Orchestra, about collaborating on this project, and readily agreed. By and large, the charts are generic modern big-band style, nothing particularly innovative in form or orchestration, but Brecker is absolutely outstanding.

From the first notes of his first solo on One Million Circumstances, Brecker is clearly operating on DC current while the band coasts smoothly along behind him. Nothing he plays is trite or uninteresting; every solo crackles with brilliance and innovation. He sounds 30 years old all over again. Yet the effect is rather like listening to Freddie Hubbard on a really hot night playing with a cool-school orchestra. Granted, the band’s ensemble is tight and the soloists are not uninteresting—even pianist Seppo Kantonen plays well-crafted and interesting lines—but the music is just too cool for what Brecker is doing. Yes, there are some interesting ensemble passages in these arrangements, but again, they’re pretty routine whereas Brecker is anything but.

In Summer and Winter, we hear a pretty good trombone solo by Heikki Tuhkanene, and Mikko Pettinen is also heard on trumpet, yet once again it’s Brecker who steals the show. Even his relaxed, rather low-key flugelhorn solo on Never Let Me Go is the most interesting part of this track. The arrangement of Holmquist’s All My Things has some interesting features, including staccato trumpet figures played rapidly against the lead line, yet time and again the greatest jazz playing on them is by Brecker. My Stella, as it turns out, is really Victor Young’s famous song Stella By Starlight rearranged by Holmquist. Again, the arrangement has some interesting features about it, but the orchestra’s playing is so cool and emotionally detached that, again, it’s Brecker who stands out.

A somewhat mixed bag, then; recommended for Brecker fans.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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