UMO Jazz Orchestra: Plays the Music of Muhal Richard Abrams

It would appear that Abrams enjoyed the opportunity to work with this tight Finnish ensemble, and it’s fun to hear him tip his hat to past masters like Ellington and Dameron (the more adventurous hard-swinging writing also evokes some of Braxton’s jazz band work, but I wouldn’t know who influenced whom in this case).

UMO is impressive in its handling of the complex section writing on “Fanfare” and in bringing lush scores like “Melancholia” and the challenging “Fortex” to life. I did sometimes wonder whether a really great soloist might take things to another level, but it’s unfair to criticize what isn’t here, and in terms of what is, this record represents a significant accomplishment for both composer and orchestra. Abrams shows that he can write creatively and effectively for a big band, and UMO passes the test of interpreting this extremely complex writing with flying colors.