Circum Grand Orchestra — 12
(Circum-Disc CIDI 1401, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-07-27
In 2014, with the heyday of big bands in jazz many decades behind us, it's great to hear musicians forging ahead in this venerable tradition, and not just emulating past styles. We've recently noted Zubatto Syndicate from Seattle, and Satoko Fujii has ventured into this territory both in the US and Japan. And in a way, Circum Grand Orchestra from Lille, France, is halfway between those two examples: the presence of electric guitar and some rock-inflected beats moves them away from the free(-ish) jazz of Fujii, but they're definitely more jazz-oriented than Zubatto. The 12-piece ensemble includes trumpets, woodwinds, and a double rhythm section, and the group is described as a collective, though electric bassist Christophe Hache is listed as leader. It really shows in the egalitarian nature of the arrangements. Everyone gets their time in the spotlight, and none of it is wasted. Trumpets, saxes, bass clarinet, guitar, all have their moments. Sometimes I'm reminded of Nucleus, where a sinuous bass line provides a rhythmic underpinning for great interplay between the horns. There are also sections of very low event density, where one or two players will improvise together backed only by very sparse percussion or piano. Another reference might be the large-group recordings of Charles Mingus or George Russell, especially if you think to Russell's adventurous projects starting in the mid-60s. One of 12's best features is the amount of space in the music; in spite of the large number of players, there's a lot of openness, moments of quietness where you'd never know there were so many musicians in the room — or maybe a bunch of them popped out for a beer at the pub next door. No, it ain't got that swing (unless you have a very loose definition of swing), but it do mean a thing.
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more