Jazz CD Reviews

New York Voices Live With The WDR Big Band Cologne – Palmetto Records

Jazz vocals and big band combine for an entertaining concert.

Published on March 11, 2013

New York Voices Live With The WDR Big Band Cologne – Palmetto Records PM 2160, 75:16 ****1/2:

(Featuring New York Voices – Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader , Peter Eldridge; and The WDR Big Band Cologne : Heiner Wiberny – alto saxophone; Karolina Strassmeyer – alto saxophone; Oliver Peters – tenor saxophone; Paul Heller – tenor saxophone; Jens Neufang – baritone saxophone; Andy Harderer – trumpet; Rob Bruynen – trumpet; Klaus Osterloh – trumpet; Wim Both – trumpet; John Marshall – trumpet; Ludwig Nuss – trombone; Dave Horler – trombone; Bernt Laukamp – trombone; Mattis Cederberg – bass trombone; Frank Chastenier – piano; Paul Shigihara – guitar; John Goldsby – bass; Hans Dekker – drums)

After twenty-five years, New York Voices has established itself as a pre-eminent jazz vocal ensemble. The original group, formed at Ithaca College in 1987, consisted of Darmon Meador, Peter Eldridge, Kim Nazarian, Caprice Fox and Sara Krieger. Their self-titled debut, was released on GRP Records in 1987. In 1996 the group earned a Grammy for Count Basie Orchestra With New York Voices Live At Manchester Craftmen’s Guild. They have performed with Ray Brown, Joshua Redman, Jim Hall and George Benson. Presently the group has been re-configured to a quartet with Meador, Eldridge, Nazarian and Lauren Kinhan. New York Voices represents classical, jazz, R&B and world music, touring extensively around the world. The four members have solo careers, compose, teach and arrange.

As their style meshes with orchestras, collaboration with The WDR Big Band Cologne would seem to be a natural fit. New York Voices Live With The WDR Big Band Cologne meshes the two musical entities flawlessly. Both groups share the Kolner Phiharmonie stage with mutual aplomb. A variety of standards and underappreciated songs are reset with dexterity. Opening the set is a swing arrangement of a Paul Simon song, “Baby Driver” (from Bridge Over Troubled Water). The arrangement (Eldridge & Meador) draws on Simon’s up tempo rhythm. Eldridge shines on lead vocal and there are two memorable solos (Paul Shigihara on guitar and Karolina Strassmayer on alto saxophone). Shifting to late night, key-shifting vibe, Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moment” captures the harmonic virtuosity of New York voices. There are scintillating vocalese passages and graceful, atmospheric solos by Ludwig Nuss (trombone) and Heiner Wiberny (alto saxophone). Both New York Voices and WDR Big Band Cologne glow in unison, in their own configuration and with each other.

Familiar material (“Love Me Or Leave Me” with features a sprightly lead vocal by Lauren Kinham) and Lerner & Loew’s Brigadoon gem, “Almost Like Being In Love” (which benefits from a capella four-part harmony) sound fresh. But it’s the unexpected that makes things dynamic. On the ballad, “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning”, the pace alternates from melancholy to big band swing (with some nimble tempo brakes).  A certain highlight is the finger-snapping, jazzy rendition of “Darn That Dream” (Jimmy Van Heusen).  Jens Neufang weaves an agile bass clarinet against the muscular arrangement, followed by Darmon Meader in an impressive display of scat singing. The inclusion of John Marshall on trumpet punctuates the jam with crispness.

Other highlights can be found in the eclectic song selection. Adapting Annie Lennox’s “Cold” to waltz-time gospel orchestral is uplifting. Meader’s lead is concise and the instrumentals mesh perfectly. Another Paul Simon composition, “I Do It For Your Love” (from Still Crazy After All These Years) is lyrically eloquent with gossamer harmony, heartfelt vocals by Kim Nazarian and a moody turn by Oliver Peters on soprano sax. It is notable that Bill Evans covered this. Throughout the performance, the overall chemistry is palpable and never ordinary.

New York Voices With The WDR Big Band Cologne hits all of the right notes!

TrackList: Baby Driver; Stolen Moments; Love Me Or Leave Me; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; Cold; The World Keeps You Waiting; I Do It For Your Love; Darn That Dream; Almost Like Being In Love; The Sultan Fainted

—Robbie Gerson

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