Like the best jazz bands or orchestras, The Heritage Orchestra is clearly meant to be heard live. Its fitting, then, that The Heritage Orchestra is a perfect combination of the two. It's not a Metallica S&M style 'popular music gets some strings in the background' mish-mash.. it's actually original jazz written to be played by an orchestra and solists.
Championed by Gilles Peterson (indeed, they're on his record label), The Heritage Orchestra have wowed crowds at the Big Chill festival amongst other places. They've pulled off a cheesy-sounding concept with true finesse and the production is crisp and clear. No complaints there. They sound good.
On the song front, the first track "Mothers and Daughters Now Mothers" sounds a lot like 4hero. It's the sort of thing Miles Davis would have ended up at if he were still alive. Lots of strings, drums, and brass.
"D'lin" is a more epic 'lush' jazz song, evoking some Sergio Mendes and Philip Glass sensibilities (to me, at least!). It starts off subtly, but grows into a bold sweep of strings and woodwinds pushed along by a strong string melody and tumbling drums.
"Skybreaks" is the first vocal track on the album. It has a 'live' feel and is reasonably typical of what Gilles Peterson plays on his Worldwide show. Other than a constant string backing, there's not much evidence of the orchestra here. Again, we're in 4hero territory.
"Ballad for Strings" starts off with a heavy, sad string intro and doesn't pick up much throughout. I'd call it "Fugue for Saxophone and Strings" myself. No vocals.
"Tell Me Stories" is another vocal track that fits into the Gilles Peterson modern female jazz mould. Again, a massive 4hero feel here.
"The 1890 Affair" is a jazz concerto in three movements and is the fairest jazz-vs-classics work on the disc. Jazz and classical influences fight against each other throughout the first movement, with even a rather drum'n'bassy acoustic drum part coming in. The second movement starts off with Miles Davis Bitches Brew style play for two minutes, before picking up the theme from movement 1 again. The third movement calms down with some rather generic modern jazz, much like any played on Jazz FM in the 1990s and is a surprisingly lacklustre end to the concerto.
Anyway, it's a bold effort and it's one of the best jazz-meets-classics albums out there.. so while the songs aren't as good as they could have been, it still deserves 5 stars. Get it.
on 18 January 2007
This album is stunning. I have lost count how many times I have played it now, well into the hundreds in the first month alone.
I could write a long technical reply about this orchestra, but there is too much to say. All I must say is that I hope they will be around for a long time to come, putting out quality work like this.
Although ONE thing I was disappointed with though... is that, it is too short! However, due the quality of the music written and performed, especially "Sky Breaks" it warrants the price still by far.
"Sky breaks" is probably now one of my favorite songs of all time, and I cannot see anything topping it for a long time, if ever.
Don't illegally download this from wherever else, SHOW your support for such a great orchestra and BUY it!