Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
The Aristocrats — The Aristocrats with Primuz Chamber Orchestra
(Boing! Music LLC no#, 2022, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2022-06-22
Taken on its own, the title The Aristocrats with Primuz Chamber Orchestra pretty much tells you what you get with the music. Guthrie Govan, Bryan Beller, and Marco Minnemann, those maestros of high-energy technical jazz-rock, might seem an unlikely candidate for orchestral arrangements, but Polish composer Wojtek Lemański heard something in their music that spurred him to write string arrangements of some tunes. When Govan, Beller, and Minnemann heard the results, they were so intrigued by the sound that they reached out to Lemański, and a collaboration was born. The Aristocrats provided the backing tracks from nine highlights of their recorded career, and string parts were worked into them, augmenting or even replacing the original instrumentation. In essence, this album contains remixes of the pieces, with the string parts handled in somewhat the same way as an electronic remixer uses synths on a pop song. One really fascinating wrinkle to this methodology is that the band’s improvisations are treated as composed material as far as the strings are concerned, so they can play off, for example, Govan’s solos, which were originally improvised in the studio. There are three tunes from each of the band’s studio albums: Culture Clash (2013), Tres Caballeros (2015), and You Know What…? (2019). Some of the transformations are quite dramatic — for example, “Dance of the Aristocrats” is nearly a minute longer than the original version, with a lovely strings-only coda. Lemański has done a superb job of translating the power and energy of these supremely technical pieces into something that makes sense for a chamber orchestra and doesn’t just sound grafted on. In these new arrangements, the strings are integral to the impact. In some ways, I have to say I prefer these new versions to the originals. The sheer scope of the music has blossomed into something magnificent that a power trio could never accomplish.
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