Lilacs & Laughter
This recording of 13 original compositions for brass octet and rhythm section is a remarkable achievement for the young German pianist and composer Florian Ross. Its release follows that of Ross' Suite for Soprano Sax and String Orchestra (Naxos) which was written for Dave Liebman.
Bassist Ingmar Heller and drummer John Hollenbeck carve an exacting rhythmic pathway through a thickly textured wall of brass. Ross's compositions run the gamut from the stately opening chorale, through a fanfare, four pieces based on vamps, a rondo and tone poems. As impressive in its sophistication and brassy power as this music is, there is a bit of a rote, textbook quality to some of the lines and harmonies, indicating that Ross could stand to outgrow his influences a bit more.
The soloing, on the whole, is polished. The soloists on each track should have been mentioned in the otherwise in-depth notes. It would be nice to know which of the three trumpeters contributed the Woody Shawlike, lyrical solo on the title track.