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Orchestre National de Jazz: Shut Up and Dance

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With frequently changing personnel and leadership, ONJ has been remarkably chameleonic during its 25 years, sometimes, as when Paolo Damiani was at the helm for Charmediterranéen in 2003, veering from idiom to idiom as we moved from track to track. The French band is no less eclectic under its current leader, Daniel Yvinec, but each of his projects, Around Robert Wyatt in 2009 and his newest two-disc effort with music written for the group by John Hollenbeck, sticks far more religiously on course. A techno stretch of the imagination is necessary to hear Shut Up as a dance album, but the title is catchier than “10 Little Concertos,” a more accurate description of what’s happening here.

After a brief 29-second overture revs up the electronics, Hollenbeck apportions one new piece to every member of the band. A mini-concerto for orchestra-with the band playing tuned percussion tubes-pops up at the end of the first CD, this “Boom” melting into “Bob Walk,” a tribute to Bob Brookmeyer written for Matthieu Metzger. Except for drummer Yoann Serra and electric bassist Sylvain Daniel, all the musicians are listed as playing at least three instruments.

Quadrupling on alto, soprano and MIDI saxophones plus trombophone, Metzger’s solo instrument is the toughest ID. He switches as readily as Hollenbeck switches tempos, the chart floating, swinging, rocking and freaking. On the other hand, “Shaking Peace” aptly describes the exquisite volatility of the arrangement showcasing pianist Eve Risser. “Tongs of Joy” is a sunnier vehicle for Vincent Lafont’s synthesizer, while “Praya Dance,” for Joce Mienniel, is indeed the dancingest piece in the set, recalling the bacchante approach to flute exemplified by Jeremy Steig, Roland Kirk and Ian Anderson.

Originally Published