David Matthews' arrangements of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra are ambitious, to say the least. Eschewing any keyboard instruments, he relies on the considerable chops of his 16-piece big band to follow his demanding charts. The opening track, "Toccata and Fugue (In D Minor)," is probably his greatest success, with a driving, up-tempo performance that proves exhilarating. The use of muted trumpets and brushes to introduce "Minuet (A Lover's Concerto)" and the surprising twists that slip into his charts are noteworthy. Sadly, none of the soloists are identified in Kazutomi Aoki's liner notes, though there are several outstanding trumpet solos. Unfortunately, many of the slower pieces such as the ponderous "Kyrie," although well executed, just don't keep one's attention, and as a result, it is difficult to listen to the entire CD at once. There's no questioning the musicianship within this release, but it falls short of being an essential purchase for those who enjoy Baroque music transformed into a jazz setting.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden