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Chris Walden Big Band

No Bounds

No Bounds is as tasteful a big band album as you're likely to hear today, at a time when large jazz ensembles compete in virtuousity, intensity, range andóunfortunatelyóvolume. Every note on the disc is well-placed, in tune and, even when dissonant, pleasing to the ears. That's because Walden knows music from top to bottom, having been a trumpeter himself, and composed, arranged and conducted for big bands, the cinema, television and star vocalists.

Growing up in Hamburg, Germany, Walden acquired a European sensibility but, unlike some European musicians, he also assimilated the American jazz idiom. The result is an album with universal appeal. Take, for example, "Clay's Theme," by Till Bronner, who also plays the marvellous trumpet solo on this track. Waldenóas arranger and conductorócombines a cinematic use of strings and harp, with a laid back rhythm section, flugelhorn, and baritone saxophone, to create a unified backdrop for the haunting melody. On "In The Doghouse," he combines a film noir atmosphere with some swinging big band effects and a plunger mute trombone solo, in a lively series of changes that are simultaneously diverse and unified.

Tierney Sutton does a fine job as vocalist on two standards: "People Will Say We're In Love" and "Smile." Her precision and subtle inflections blend beautifully with the band. "Someday My Prince Will Come" comes on lively and alternately lightly and jumping, with a bow to the Miles Davis version (Wynton Kelly's original piano playing is echoed by Alan Steinberger's fine keyboard work). "Otterkamp" is a Walden original realized by Martin Tillman on electric cello. The soft brass and woodwind intro has echoes of Gil Evans, and Tillman peforms a virtuosic solo that would have charmed romantics like Dvorak. Then, a (surprising) Latin beat takes the piece dancing late into the night.

In an era when tabloid-type sensationalism haunts music and the arts, this straightforward, articulate and soft-spoken album reminds us of how great jazz music can beówhen genuine sensibility and inventiveness combine with consummate musicianship to produce something memorable.

 

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