British composer Will Todd has experimented in the past with fusions of jazz and classical choral music in an accessible British vein, and has formed his own Will Todd Ensemble to further his work along these lines. This release represents his latest thinking on the subject, with a pair of large jazz-influenced works surrounded by shorter pieces, in English and Latin, in a more conventional tonal vein. The two jazz works differ from each other, and this is a good thing: Todd seems to be experimenting with new ways of thinking about the relationship between jazz and classical choral styles. The Jazz Missa Brevis is straightforward, with simple jazz harmonies set to broadly appealing choral lines in a variety of common jazz and pop rhythms that may bring Godspell to mind for listeners of a certain age. The Passion Music that opens the album is something different, incorporating the singing of a gospel soloist, soprano Shaneeka Simon, passages of more dissonant harmony sprinkled through the music, and a bracingly original choice of texts. Sample "The Seven Last Words from the Cross." The St. Martin's Voices thankfully do not try to mimic an African-American accent, and Simon even pushes her diction just a bit in the direction of standard pronunciation: she devises a mixture that fits the music, and it's very effective. Definitely recommended for those interested in what used to be called the Third Stream jazz.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Jazz Missa Brevis|