Chris Walden is adventurous soul. He has made a strong presence in the Los Angeles big band scene with several albums of straight ahead big band music, yet he has tackled non-traditional pop music for big band arrangements of Disney’s When You Wish Upon a Star, and It’s a Small World After All. On his first big band effort, (2005’s Home of My Heart, also on Origin Records), Walden took on film noir in a three-part suite, as well as the theme for Star Wars.
Walden has now even gone one step further with his new release on Origin Records. His Kurt Marti Suite for choir and big band is based on sacred poems by Swiss writer, Kurt Marti. Martí was a priest in Switzerland until 1983. His poetry combined with political statements and used Swiss dialect. He departed from church conventions and created “love poems.”
Walden used the St. John’s Choir, based out of Hamburg Germany, as well as a 17-piece big band based out of Los Angeles. His LA band includes stalwarts, Kim Richmond, Wayne Bargeron, and Bob McChesney.
In addition to the St. Martí Suite, Walden includes a straight jazz composition, Slings and Arrows, composed by Michael Brecker, who recently passed away. This track was included to honor Brecker, as Walden had planned for many years to write a big band arrangement of this composition.
Listening to the Kurt Martí Suite is a challenge due to the fact that the choir sings in German, Walden’s native language. The jazz arrangements, however, spice up the choir singing. It should be noted with admiration that Walden both composed, arranged, conducted, and produced the Kurt Martí Suite.
If you are up to the blend of sacred choral music sung in German, coupled with jazz interludes, then I can recommend this CD. If not, then check out Walden’s other big band issues on Origin Records.
– Jeff Krow