When George Gruntz recorded Merryteria in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1998, his Concert Jazz Band had been together for 26 years. The lineups, of course, had varied from year to year, but the outfit never lost its recognizable sound or its sense of adventure. Some big-band leaders are content to offer predictable, knee-jerk imitations of Buddy Rich, but Gruntz always realized that a big band could be relevant to post-bop experimentation. The Concert Jazz Band continues to sound fresh on Merryteria, which ranges from the exuberant ("Mexicali Pose") to the moody ("Bunauara," "Novgorod Bells"). While Gruntz's "Bunauara" has a strong African influence, "Novgorod Bells" underscores his appreciation of traditional Russian folk. The only standard that Gruntz embraces on this CD is Victor Young's "My Foolish Heart"; most of the time, the Swiss pianist/arranger concentrates on material by either himself or his sidemen. True to form, Gruntz employs a variety of American and European musicians; the participants on Merryteria include, among others, trombonist Ray Anderson and trumpeters Marvin Stamm, Terrell Stafford, and Jens Winther. Anderson is especially appropriate for this CD; the Chicagoan is as eccentric as he is challenging, and Gruntz should be applauded for featuring him prominently. Merryteria demonstrates that after 26 years, the Concert Jazz Band was still among Europe's most interesting big bands.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson