The Winners

Live at the Dolder Grand Hotel, Zurich

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These days, straight-ahead jazz often functions as a repertory music. There are countless hard bop and post-bop artists who won't think twice about recording a bunch of overdone standards and playing them the same old way. A perfect example is the Winners, a European bop/post-bop quartet consisting of trumpeter/flugelhornist Franco Ambrosetti, pianist Thierry Lang, bassist Heiri Känzig, and drummer Peter Schmidlin. Recorded live at Zurich's Dolder Grand Hotel in 2000, this Swiss release is full of standards that have been recorded time and time again over the years. Anyone who is seriously into jazz has heard numerous versions of "Summertime," "Autumn Leaves," "My Foolish Heart," and Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." Some would argue that there should be a moratorium on these songs in the 21st century, although an artist who is really imaginative can find something fresh to say with even the most beaten to death warhorses. But "imaginative" isn't an adjective that describes this CD; the words that come to mind are predictable, derivative, and conventional. That isn't to say that Live at the Dolder Grand Hotel, Zurich is a bad album. It's competent -- if unremarkable -- and no one would deny that these European improvisers play their instruments quite well. But chops aren't everything. Imagination also counts for something, and even though the Winners' set is adequate and well executed, they could have been a lot more adventurous in their choice of material.

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