It is remarkable how similar music involving large modern jazz groups can be, no matter who the composer and/or conductor may be, or where the musicians are coming from, both creatively and geographically. Here, we have a large group of Lithuanian musicians working under the muse of Vladimir Tarasov, a percussionist, composer, and group leader who links the lengthy exploration of the waltz at hand to his oeuvre of works via the use of the Italian word "atto," meaning action. This is Tarasov's Lithuanian waltz action, or "WaltzAtto," but it just as easily could be the music of a large experimental jazz group in San Francisco, New York City, Amsterdam, or Tokyo. The 13 musicians represent a group size that should without a doubt be able to create much more complex music than a small group, and although concentration and listening will be demanded of each player for it to happen, this number of musicians is nowhere near an unwieldy army of several dozen as in a large orchestra. Broken down into sections, what Tarasov has at his disposal are small reed and brass sections, as in two horns each, with the additional, quieter oboe coupled with the violin as a low-budget representation of classical orchestra sections. The rest of the group is an extended rhythm section, including guitar, piano, two bassists, and a total of three percussionists. There are European jazz fans who wave this CD in the air, claiming it to be the greatest recording of "out" big band music in existence, and there are sections of the recording that could be put forth as very convincing evidence. The extended alto solo of Vytautas Labutis, followed by Valerijus Piblivicius' tremendously in-control trumpet exploration, are a pair of instrumental concertos that happen with a great deal of varied and shifting backgrounds from the group. Sometimes seven or more different cues seem to be happening at once. Whether three musicians or the entire ensemble is involved, there are unison, or "tight" passages, that really don't sound like they could have been polished any further. This is way beyond the loopy, rough-shod large-band ensemble playing that usually results when the avant gang manages to stage a two-hour rehearsal, and that's all, of a major piece. Yet there is a great deal of this piece that could be described as pretty much what any group of players of this ilk would do given the chance, regardless of polish or lack of it, which means simple compositional devices, resulting in musical sections that seemed framed or overly encouraged without any kind of real musical importance. As brilliant as some of the solos are, and Juozas Rimas may play one of the best jazz oboe solos ever here, with leaky rainstick accompaniment, the concept of a suite-like series of solos by improvisers in a large-band context is a cliché in itself. But perhaps it is clichéd like parmesan cheese on pasta -- something simple that works, so why not do it. As the performance moves through the players on hand, passing through a section highlighting prepared piano, sending the orchestra out for a hot cheese pie during a pair of bass solos, the listener will always find enjoyable, energetic, and driven improvising, although not the elusive creative orchestra masterwork that Tarasov hoped for.
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