De Zes Winden

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Recorded in 1997, this edition of the Six Winds included the legendary vanguard saxophonist John Tchicai. All tours and recordings of the Six Winds get a new fake book. This one was no exception. Recording and touring in 1997, Tchicai's contribution to the band was phenomenal. Insisting on a more structured approach -- interesting for a man with such a long and illustrious improvisational record -- Tchicai persuaded the band to balance the composed content at 60 percent of the scale. Beginning with Mariette Rouppe van de Voort's "Squilo," the lush harmonies and counterpoints are orchestrated in such a way that it is only the improvisation of Tchicai's alto that creates dimension between them. The ensemble is so tightly knit yet so elegantly free in this study of major key phrasings and melodic frames that open onto panoramas of clipped, boisterous alto mayhem based on those same melodic ideas. In Tchicai's "Where's Moore" and "Haengende Skaerm/Jaegger Unit," the saxophonist is apparently drawn to and perplexed by film composing as it exists in suspense films. Strange noir-ish sweeps of tone and color create a backdrop for blues-oriented swinging and soloing from individual members, creating a textural paradox that opens wider as the tunes pass on into their successors. In all, this is perhaps the most satisfying of the Six Winds' recordings thus far. Whether effecting radical modal reinventions of Pachelbel's Canon or introducing entirely new forms of harmonic improvisation, the Six Winds are more than up to the task, playing with a lush elegance that befits the material and their stellar reputation as one of Europe's most innovative ensembles.

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