Barry Guy / London Jazz Composers' Orchestra

Double Trouble

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Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra was the finest, most adventurous large jazz ensemble at work at the end of the 20th century, and Double Trouble, not even the absolute acme of his achievements, gives a fine example of what this group could do. Originally scored as a kind of double piano concerto for Alexander von Schlippenbach and Howard Riley (here performed with Riley only), Guy deploys his 18-piece orchestra in ever-shifting groupings and conjures forth a wide-ranging array of thematic material that still coalesces into a satisfying whole. Introduced by a lovely, brooding Henry Lowther fl├╝gelhorn solo, and followed by a rampaging outing by Riley, the band plunges into an apparent free for all with a wild violin/sopranino duo, only to unexpectedly (and momentarily) resolve into a drop-dead gorgeous anthem that one could hum for weeks. All this in the first 12 minutes. This general pattern continues: small bunches of soloists (solos to quartets), set like gems into a backdrop more orchestral than big band in nature, providing less "riffs" than structural contributions. And always, stemming from Guy's inherently romantic nature, the surprise of rich, deep melodies springing forth from the maelstrom. A superb recording, perhaps on a notch below masterpieces like Theoria, Harmos, and this work's descendant, Double Trouble Two. Very highly recommended.

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