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Clare Fischer and the Metropole Orchestra: The Latin Side

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Fischer’s quintet is enhanced by the Metropole Orchestra in this solid collection demonstrating his strengths in rhythm, harmony, composition and orchestration. Except for “Memories of You,” the repertoire is made up of his compositions. Fischer does the Eubie Blake ballad as an unaccompanied piano solo with three key changes in the first five bars, heralding the harmonic variety that suffuses the performance. His writing for the Metropole’s brass on “Morning,” for strings on “Pensativa,” and for the horn sections on “Dancing Song” emphasizes yet again that Fischer is too often overlooked when great jazz orchestrators are discussed. On seven of the nine pieces, Fischer plays a digital piano whose percussive attack complements the Latin rhythms. Even in his virtuoso’s hands, however, the electronic instrument’s metallic timbre can be wearing. The warmth of his acoustic piano is welcome on “Memories of You” and “C.P.”

All of the pieces are studio recordings except for “C.P.,” a concert performance recorded in The Hague. It is an excursion in baroque form and Latin jazz feeling, with unusual richness and depth in the orchestral sections that alternate with the combo. In the context, the title might suggest C.P.E. Bach, but Fischer named the piece years ago for Charlie Palmieri, one of his Latin heroes. In addition to Fischer’s stimulating solos throughout, there is extensive solo work by Don Shelton on soprano saxophone, flute and clarinet. It may come as a surprise to many listeners that Shelton, the Hi-Los and Singers Unlimited vocalist, is a formidable jazz instrumentalist. There are excellent solos by the Dutch flugelhornist Jarmo Hoogendijk, trombonist Paul Woesthuis, and tenor saxophonist Gerbrand Westveen. The solid bass work is by Brent Fischer, who has developed into a substantial player during years of experience with his father.