Claus Ogerman

A Man and His Music

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There are plenty of jazz fans who can't stand the lush and lazy sentimentality of arranger Claus Ogerman. They think he's ruined it for every artist he's worked with -- Frank Sinatra and Diana Krall to name two -- but they always seem to ignore that he was an integral part of at least one accepted classic, Antonio Carlos Jobim's Wave. He's also been responsible for a lot of cheese -- this or that orchestra plays the "hits of Italy" type albums -- and his work for Andre Kostelanetz doesn't put him in a class with respected arrangers like Ellington or George Russell, and it isn't worth hearing anyway. That's why the well-picked American edition of Man and His Music beats the four-disc Man Behind the Music, released by the German Verve imprint Boutique (it also steals the too-big box's liner notes, which are insightful and mostly from the man himself). On the German release, you had to suffer a horribly suave cover photo of Claus with a '70s suit and European cigarette -- held by the tippy-tip, of course -- but you also had to suffer too much Streisand, Michael Franks, and Ogerman's own Gate of Dreams album. Since this is a Verve-proper release, there are plenty of Verve's artists represented, which is fine, since it's with this label that Ogerman did his best work. Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, and Wes Montgomery all succumb willingly to Ogerman's sentimental aesthetic, one that's not really syrupy but is entirely formulaic. That's why it's up to the revolving door of guests to keep things interesting, and why three Michael Brecker tracks are one too many (especially when they could have included the great Getz/Ogerman version of "Moonlight in Vermont"). A taste of Freddie Hubbard's overly dated recordings with the arranger are, at the very least, time capsule interesting and Diana Krall's "I Should Care" is a superb closer. The Krall/Ogerman album Look of Love got whacked by the critics, but after a two-disc history lesson in the world of Ogerman, it's possible to guess why the chanteuse turned to the arranger. Ogerman makes fantastic mood albums, ones for rainy, sad days that are both wistful and warm. If you can relate a bittersweet breakup in Krall's life to the recording date of her Ogerman album, there you go. As far as the man himself, he's limited, but Man and His Music respects what he has to offer and represents his talent splendidly.

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