Danish Radio Big Band / Renee Rosnes

Renee Rosnes With the Danish Radio Big Band

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The greatest revelation in Canadian jazz pianist Renee Rosnes' With the Danish Radio Big Band album isn't that she fronts the stellar band as a soloist, but that she is featured as a composer and arranger. These aspects reveal other dimensions to her already storied reputation as a top-notch pianist and improviser. Over the course of eight tracks, five of which were composed by Rosnes, the pianist's hard bop style extends its reach to take in elements of modalism, the complex chromatic atmospheres of Stan Kenton's experimental period, tough Thad Jones/Mel Lewis-style charts, and the incorporation of dissonance and rugged harmonic architectures into her aggressive style. In many ways, this is Rosnes at both her most intense and laid-back. Intensity is not always the level of her playing but is always the level of her focus, and she strives to bring out not only the tonal palette -- which is rich but subtle -- in her compositions but to guarantee the maximum reach of her compositional ambition. Soloists come and go but always toward the margin where she waits, comping, filling in spaces, and finally letting herself loose with large chord voices and mid-register runs that reveal her dexterity with virtually any big-band structure. "Bulldog's Chicken," with its hard-swinging front line, gives way to a modally motivated intervallic solo full of dissonant arpeggios and flitting right-hand work that accents punchy small chords in the high register. "Black Hole" is an exciting work of scalar architecture and startling dynamics. It's knotty front-line melody gives way to some of the most intuitive soling by various bandmembers in a big-band context. Only a very empathetic bass solo by Thomas Ovesen eclipses the impressionistic horn charts that back her solo on the album's closer, "The Quiet Storm." The tune's lilting swing opens up onto a sonic landscape that is as varied in hue as a morning sunrise and is as controlled in its dynamic as twilight falling over a city. This is easily Rosnes' finest recorded achievement and raises the stakes for any who come after her and attempt to do the same thing. The album is a crystalline wonder of tight writing, exceptional playing, and painstaking attention to harmonic detail; it is a tapestry so varied and multidimensional in both conception and execution that it stands in a class by itself.

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