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11/28/11

Randy Brecker with DR Big Band
The Jazz Ballad Song Book
Red Dot

This is a lush, cinematic affair with trumpet soloist Brecker backed by the 19-piece Danish Radio Big Band and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, with Michael Bojesen conducting. The charts—by band members Gerard Presencer, Vincent Nilsson and Peter Jensen plus other Danes and Americans Vince Mendoza and Bill Dobbins—are appropriately symphonic in scope, and Brecker blows powerful, uncompromising, hard-bop-oriented jazz with interesting note choices and resolutions, the only reservation being his occasional tendency to repeat himself in his solos.

Jensen’s arrangement of “All or Nothing at All” opens the set at an aggressive medium tempo that one does not associate with the ballad. Brecker is bright and exuberant in his melody statement and ad-lib choruses; an expectant orchestral fantasia follows, leading to a blustery baritone saxophone solo by Pelle Fridell. The performances of “Cry Me a River,” “Skylark,” “This Is All I Ask,” “The Immigrant/Godfather” (nice string writing by Nilsson) and “’Round Midnight” convey a more typical jazz-ballad approach with slower tempos and Brecker’s often-ravishing melody statements. “Someday My Prince Will Come” includes an appropriately airy flute passage to set up Brecker’s entrance of the waltz-time melody. Two modern Brecker originals arranged by Mendoza—“Forgone Conclusion” and “I Talk to the Trees”—add emotional variety to the mix along with a jazzy, cooking version of “Goldfinger.”

The arrangements are substantive, mood-setting and beautifully played. They neither crowd Brecker nor hang him out to dry. Let’s hope some U.S. orchestras get hip to Brecker and these charts.

Originally published in November 2011
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