This is a very different type of big-band album. Arranger/composer/drummer John Hollenbeck conceives of the 18-piece Jazz Bigband Graz not so much as a jazz big band but as an ensemble-oriented orchestra filled with unusual tone colors that is capable of expressing most emotions. "The Bird with the Coppery, Keen Claws" has some odd narration by singer Theo Bleckmann, "Just Like Him" finds the horns playing long tones before some fairly free improvising, and "Abstinence" hints at George Russell before going completely crazy. The following three selections form the "Joys & Desires" suite, which ranges from the ominous theme of "Jazz Envy" (a performance that climaxes with some explosive electronic devices) to the more peaceful "The Garden of Love." The closing "Maxfield" has forward momentum but is rather monotonous in a cinematic way. Although not always an easy listen, Joys & Desires contains innovative big-band writing, impeccable musicianship, and many surprising moments.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow