Vienna Art Orchestra

Poweful Ways: Nine Immortal Evergreens for Eric Dolphy

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The Vienna Art Orchestra had performed pieces by composers ranging from Erik Satie to Charles Mingus, so why not large-band arrangements of Eric Dolphy compositions? The only misgiving one might have coming into a project like this is that the VAO tended to have a rather thick, blurred group sound and it wasn't clear whether Dolphy's pieces, with their knife-sharp, acidic attack, would be suitable grist for the mill. And, indeed, this is something of the case. As much as they try to keep things moving, the arrangements by Mathias Rüegg have a bit of a plodding quality, as though the pieces are struggling against the ecstatic, unbridled aspect that Dolphy injected into the originals. Several of the soloists do what they can to break through the miasma, notably vibist Franck Tortiller and trumpeter Matthieu Michel, but the pea soup remains fairly thick. Powerful Ways is a well-intentioned idea and it's at least interesting hearing the compositions arranged for large ensemble, but a healthy dose of Dolphy's supremely creative spirit is desperately needed and sadly lacking.

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