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07/25/11

Lalo Schifrin
Invocations: Jazz Meets the Symphony 7
Aleph Records

When Dizzy Gillespie hired Lalo Schifrin for his quintet in 1960, he set in motion for the Argentine pianist, composer and arranger a prolific international career that would cover jazz as well as classical music, film scores and, like Invocations, hybrids and fusions. Invocations features Schifrin, bassist Pierre Boussaguet, drummer Tom Gordon and Australian trumpeter and trombonist James Morrison as a jazz ensemble and soloists working within the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. The suite’s six symphonic pieces evoke the feeling of a jazz set within the symphony, rather than the strings merely sweetening or backgrounding the combo. There is also a quartet track, “Here ’Tis,” a blues à la Gillespie that incorporates Milt Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove.”

The most successful performance, in terms of seamless integration, is “Etude in Rhythm,” which is as thrilling as Schifrin’s score for the movie Bullitt. The opening “Trombone Fantasy” initially sounds as if it could have been penned by Bob Brookmeyer, but then a cinematic blast propels Morrison into virtuosic trombone playing all his own. “Summer Dance” conveys an early (pre-jazz) Americana flavor. The title movement develops a churchy New Orleans feeling, with Morrison’s high-note trumpet soaring over the orchestra. For the other two sections of the suite, Schifrin borrows Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High” and Debussy’s “Reverie,” the latter lush, dark and blessed with Morrison’s most lyrical trombone solo of the date. Overall, this is a satisfying blend of jazz and the symphony, with the musical expression more extroverted than intimate.

Originally published in July/August 2011
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