Barry Guy / London Jazz Composers' Orchestra

Ode

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This mammoth double-CD recording of the London Jazz Composer's Orchestra, led and composed by bassist Barry Guy, is among the most profound, hard-swinging, mind-bending exercises they've ever recorded. Over two CDs, the collective features such noteworthy musicians as Evan Parker, Paul Lytton, Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley, Paul Rutherford, Karl Jenkins, and others. Guy's compositions for orchestra (though they are presented here as one composition in parts) run the gamut from lush, tightly charted affairs with sweeping strings and horn lines, to dense atonal architectures with angular solos by any number of players improvising simultaneously, to sweeping, pastoral works that are in essence meditations in music for the cinema: There are the noirish, punched-up bluesy horn lines, the drooping timbres of the rhythm section playing mute against the reeds, and the anthemic swells of the entire band pushing the limits of both overtonal and harmonic conventions. After two-plus hours, what it all amounts to is a metalinguistic code written and deciphered by Guy and his musicians. Guy's approach seems to suggest that he does feel there is no new language for Western music, but there are an infinite number of syntaxes and utterances within it that are available to anyone disciplined enough to look -- or listen -- for them. In Guy's sound world, composition and improvisation wend and wind and blend together in a loose yet precise weave that allows for maximum individual expression as well as the freedom of group interplay within a particular set of harmonic constructs. For the listener, the result is a stunning array of questions, colors, shapes, timbres, textures, and moods. For Guy to score such an intricate tome, opening up the orchestra is an artistic feat; for it to sound so approachable and welcoming to non-musicians, or those approaching the music tentatively or enthusiastically, Ode is a kind of miracle.

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