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Kenny Werner with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Naked in the Cosmos

Is the cosmos ready for another Evans-sent arranger? If the project under scrutiny is Naked in the Cosmos (Jazz ‘N Pulz), the answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” thanks to Kenny Werner’s initial foray into hard-driving, symphonic big-band jazz. With the highly responsive Brussels Jazz Orchestra as his palette, Werner paints the broadest canvas in his 26-year recording career. Werner’s talents as composer-arranger-pianist are spread over four originals and the standard “A Portrait of Jenny,” giving him maximum stretch-out room. What he does to fill an hour is typified by the varied title tune: a mysterioso, stringlike introduction from his synthesizer; building contrapuntal sectional layers, uncoiling the brass in a spiraling crescendo any symphony orchestra would be proud to duplicate, sailing along the Third Stream; and, tonally and atonally, picking up pithy solo statements. “Naked in the Cosmos” is a fully clothed orchestral showcase.

Solo highlights include the alto sax of Frank Vaganee, the BJO’s artistic director, on “Jenny,” Dieter Limbourg’s alto sax and Marc Godfroid’s trombone on “All That” and Bart Defoort’s tenor sax on “Sasumi.” But the most effective swing is heard on “Use Me,” by the rhythm section alone-Werner, bassist Jos Machtel, drummer Martijn Vink-or under the legato, clustered comping.

Originally Published