The durable Canadian Brass has been among the quickest of small groups to jump on the bandwagon of releasing its own music; various discs have shown that the group's ability to forge a distinctive and seamless combination of classical, jazz, and pop numbers is unimpeded by the appearance of a host of competing groups on the scene. The same stylistic mixture is evident on the present Celebration disc, ostensibly a celebration of Canadian-Polish friendship. While that friendship is undoubtedly lasting and deeply rewarding, the budget prices at which good Eastern European orchestras tend to come these days might have played a role in the planning of the project as well. Be that as it may, this isn't one of the more successful releases of the current Canadian Brass set -- even in spite of the fact that it focuses on the combination of brass quintet and orchestra -- virtually an original Canadian Brass innovation. The centerpiece is a new composition by Lukas Foss, also entitled Celebration. The idea of the work is a good one; like others by Foss, it grafts subtle abstract effects onto easy-on-the-ears neo-Classic concepts. Here, in the outer movements, Foss explores the ways the brass quintet reorients the listener's perceptions of the basic musical material when it repeats that material in a straightforward concerto structure. But the work depends on the kind of peppy syncopations that are common in Foss and in a great deal of other neo-Classic music, and the Warsaw Philharmonic's renderings of these are unenthusiastic. The same problem plagues the segment of the program devoted to Duke Ellington (tracks 8-11). The three Beatles pieces included (tracks 5-7) have a different problem -- limp swing rhythms that distort the melodies and bring to mind nothing so much as Lawrence Welk's attempt to get with the rock revolution in the 1960s. Nothing the Canadian Brass does is without exciting features, and here those exciting features include the all-out slow introduction to Come Together and a straightforward Fats Waller medley. The door is open, however, for a younger group to attempt a more refined version of the ideas here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim