The interface between jazz and classical music has been a tricky one. Jazz artists have looked to "legit" music as a venue to social enhancement or as a subject for lampooning. Others turned to European art music looking for new formal models. The work of Orchestra Wollan Ware falls into none of these camps. Instead the orchestra, led by vibraphonist Bill Ware III and cellist Sara Wollan, offers up fun and funky versions of classical warhorses interspersed with brief, intense free improvisations. The classical pieces by Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and J.S. Bach are delivered by a medium-sized ensemble in a manner neither reverential nor satiric. They sound like a group of highly talented friends -- including several of Ware's colleagues from the Jazz Passengers -- running through some classics in someone's living room, making do with the instrumentation at hand. The closing duet between Wollan and Ware from Bach's Fifth Cello Suite distills their approach. As Wollan articulates Bach's lines, Ware decorates them with lines that intersect and then swirl away. Elsewhere, bongos and cymbals adorn Wagner's Prelude to OEDie Meistersinger, and violins playing high harmonics skitter over top of the fourth movement from Brahms' Second Symphony. The improvisations that bridge the classics are performed by subsets of the ensemble and serve as emotional scene setters.
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AllMusic Review by David Dupont
feat: Brad Jones