With Strings Attached

Willem Breuker Kollektief

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With Strings Attached Review

by Eugene Chadbourne

With Strings Attached is a CD to attach to any good collection of orchestra, big band, or concert band music. The terminology is a bit vague because the pieces, played here in full glory by the Willem Breuker Kollektief, tend to be hard to pinpoint in terms of genre. What the program has in common is that in all cases, this fine Dutch big band is heard collaborating with various string ensembles, including the Mondriaan Strings. It is serious, adventurous music; it is also a program that includes at least two compositions that have been embraced by a large audience, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter." In addition, there are excerpts from the Ferde Grofé score to Fritz Lange's Metropolis, a film that was a big hit in the '30s and has remained a classic ever since. Compositions by Silvestre Revueltas, Alfred Janson, and Erik Satie fill out the program with what would be considered modern classical music, although again the latter composer is someone whose melodies have snuck onto the hit parade at least once. All of these pieces and composers represent directions Breuker and his group have gone in at one time or another, with his discography listing complete volumes devoted to Gershwin and Metropolis. What this CD does superbly is bring together various recordings done between the early '80s and late '90s, some released here for the first time. Most listeners will be surprised to learn that this is a case of the recording being audited prior to studying the liner notes. What it sounds like instead is one continuous performance -- there is the never sense of jolting around between time and place. An overlapping in players, in some of the string ensembles as well as the family like Breuker organization, is certainly part of this easy flow. (Members of the group who might know better can pause to snicker here if they wish.) But even more so are the performances themselves, hard to fault in any passage let alone on any track. The ensemble sound is brilliant, focused, and dynamic. It is both recorded and mastered with a warmth that is more than fitting. When players break out of the score to improvise in a few spots, the effect is just right. One aspect of the anthology of tracks involving change is the introduction of new players such as Austin tenor saxophonist Alex Coke. These slight changes in the palatte are attractive, a reward of close listening. This recording is not only good for the buyer looking to cover high points of Breuker's career, but is an excellent collection of a certain type of 20th century composition. What type? The most accurate description might turn out to be just plain "fun." Two tracks in a row, the Anderson and Satie works, feature percussionist Rob Verdurmen playing a typewriter.

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