consort of viols – Trumpet After Dark (Jazz in a Meditative Mood) –
Evening Star Records ES-109, 67:12 ***** (www.lpb.com/eveningstar):
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pushover for any jazz featuring a solo
horn plus strings. I put this one on the first time without looking
closely at it, and about the second or third track it occurred to me
this was an odd-sound string quartet behind trumpeter Sandke. Looking
more carefully at the jewel box is saw credits for two treble, one
tenor and a combo treble and bass viol. Most likely the very first time
the early processors of the violin family have been heard in jazz! By
the way, pianist Bill Charlap is one of the brightest of the new crop
of jazz pianists and central to the great sound of this ensemble.
Half of the 14 tracks are either by Sandke or he’s involved in them via
arranging. They are mostly ballads and other more laid-back pieces but
don’t think this is an easy-listening jazz outing. The extremely
originally writing here is right up with that of some of my favorite
arrangers – Don Sebesky, Claus Ogerman, Eddie Sauter. The sound of the
viols – which may be somewhat familiar to listeners from the popularity
of the many recordings led by Jordi Savall and the motion picture Tous
les Matins du Monde – is more intimate and mellow in nature than the
typical string quartet. They have more strings than the violin family
but they are under less tension, and the construction and tuning of
viols is also different. Among the tunes are the most successful jazz
version of Chopin I have ever heard, possibly the only jazz version of
a tune by the 17th century English composer John Dowland, and a Sandke
original called Being Human which has Renaissance-sounding harmonies.
Sandke’s trumpet style is perfect for these imaginative arrangements. I
wondered why this was the first I’d heard of him. I give highest marks
to this superb conflation of classical and jazz elements.
Tracks: Quiet is the Night, Nocturne, Being Human, Goodbye for Now,
Star-Crossed Lovers, Etude in E, Le Jour Ou la Colombe, Monk’s Mood, A
Blues Serenade, Can She Excuse My Wrongs, Lullabye for Karen, Blues for
Sandy, Lush Life, Soul Eyes.