Bassist Arild Andersen shines as the principal soloist in a celebration of music from ECM with specially-commissioned new big-band arrangements of well-known pieces by Dave Holland, Chick Corea, Trygve Seim, Jan Garbarek, and Keith Jarrett. The resourceful Tommy Smith adds powerful tenor solos, arranges Garbarek's Molde Canticle, and directs the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.
Andersen's composition Independency is a 16-minute highlight, in a sensitive and powerful arrangement by Mike Gibbs. Other contributing arrangers are Makoto Ozone, the Japanese pianist who played alongside Smith in Gary Burton's quartet in the 1980s (Corea's Crystal Silence), Christian Jacob (Holland's May Dance), Geoff Keezer (Jarrett's My Song) and Trygve Seim/Øyvind Bræke (Seim's own Ulrikas Dans). All of them contribute sterling work, and their arrangements are likely to enter modern jazz's big band repertory book.
Recorded live at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, Celebration is a highly attractive album for a broad listenership, and as a statement about music introduced by ECM will be of special interest to long-time followers of the label.
The double-bass of Norwegian Arild Andersen has been an integral part of the sound of ECM for more than four decades, but it's heard for the first time as the lead voice in large ensemble arrangements of music. The project had its genesis in 2009 when ECM's 40th anniversary inspired a number of tributes and festivals around the world. Tenorist Tommy Smith, who had been playing extensively with Arild in Andersen's trio (including Live At Belleville), proposed a special event with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the big band he had founded in 1995.
Personnel: Arild Andersen (double-bass), Tommy Smith (tenor saxophone), Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Tommy Smith (direction)
'The SNJO can always be relied upon to eschew the lumbering excesses of the big band idiom and is much at home here...Andersen and Smith take the whole thing on board with aplomb while never losing their identities.' --BBC Music Magazine, (Roger Thomas) * * * * *
'The fulcrum is Andersen, one of the truly great bass players in European jazz, whose wonderful, full tone is one of the joys of this album.' -- Jazzwise, (Stuart Nicholson) * * * *
'It's a contemporary big-band triumph in its inspired arrangements, sensitive execution and transfixing solo improvisations.'
--The Guardian, (John Fordham) * * * *
'Compositions by some of the label's biggest stars are each given a lush big band makeover, with Andersen's sonorous bass artfully capturing the essence of the originals. A unique and unusual celebration that deftly balances the new and the familiar.' -- The Irish Times, (Cormac Larkin) * * * *
'There's no undue fuss or flourish in the playing, just tight, deft ensemble work of a pleasingly old-fashioned sort. Andersen is main soloist, rich-toned and thoughtful...a triumph all round.' -- Jazz Journal, (Brian Morton) * * * *
'But while Andersen's playing is as majestic, nimble and big-toned as expected, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra's quality of musicianship and ensemble sound make it an equal partner - at the very least - in this enterprise.'
--Sunday Herald, (Rob Adams)