Dutch Jazz Orchestra Plays the Music of Rob Madna – Challenge Records CR73267 (5 CD Set) [Distr. by Allegro] *****:
This lavish collection will be eye-opening to many in North America who may not realize the extent and high quality of jazz and for that matter music of all types and mixes in the Netherlands. The Dutch Jazz Orchestra specializes in orchestral jazz of the greatest artistic relevance and musical quality. Its musicians are some of the top players in Holland, and they are subsidized by the Dutch government. The band offers an opportunity to young talent to join its ranks for rehearsals and concerts. They tend to look for composers and arrangers who have been unjustly overlooked or material that for some reason has been forgotten.
One of those is Rob Madna, who passed away in 2003. He had an Indonesian father and a Dutch mother, and played in many jazz outfits. One was the saxophone group Five and More, and he also played for seven years with the Dutch Jazz Orchestra. He had began doing arrangements for big band in 1965 and built up a large catalog of works – mostly in the style of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. However, much of his musical life took place in relative invisibility; he worked as a high school math teacher and principal. He was even asked to join the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band as their pianist and arranger, but kindly refused the offer due to this educational career.
The music on all the discs is terrific, as well as superbly played and recorded. If you like Basie, Gil Evans, and Oliver Nelson as well as the Jones-Lewis band, you’ll love the first four of these CDs. The fifth is devoted to the Rob Madna Trio, in which Rob switches between piano,synth and trumpet. His trumpet style is quite similar to Miles Davis, and the dozen tracks on this disc of his own works are peppered with tunes by Jule Styne, Wayne Shorter, Jerome Kern and Gershwin. While most of the tracks on the first four CDs are by Madna, there are some great arrangements of such standards as Dizzy’s Manteca, Harold Arlen’s A Sleeping Bee, Ellington’s In a Mellow Tone, Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, Herbie Hancock’s Toys, Monk’s Pannonica, and Miles’ So What.
The orchestra’s conductor is John Ruocco, who also solos on clarinet on some numbers. Pianist Rob Van Bavel is a standout on many of the selections. Madna had a reputation as a musician’s musician, and was greatly admired by his Dutch colleagues as well as by the several American jazzmen he performed with, including Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer, Quincy Jones, Phil Woods and Bob Brookmeyer. Discs 1 thru 3 were recorded in 2007, while 4 & 5 date from 1994 thru 1996.
Disc 1: Midsummer ’84, It Happened Yesterday, BK Blues, So Sweet My Little Girl, Beat, One, Pannonica, So What
Disc 2: Jazz Suite for Big Band: Opener, Ballad, Gospel Waltz, Final; Day Dream, Some Blues, Waltz Pt. 1, The End of a Love Affair, Toys, The Mentor
Disc 3: Manteca, A Song for BE, Blues Ballad, A Sleepin/ Bee, Let;s Face the Music and Dance, Tale of the Trees, TJ, Lady Astrid, Workshop Pt. 2, Lucky Man, Spring is Here
Disc 4: Update, Song forTJ, All In, Basin Street Blues, In a Mellow Tone, Let’s Face the Music and Dance, Happy Hour, Peace of Mind, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Blues Time
Disc 5: Summertime, Schoolblues, Display, Pinocchio, Yesterdays, Mr. MD, Just in Time, Gospel, Fallin’ in Love with Love, This Funky Thing, Body and Soul, Final
— John Henry