Jazz ExTempore Orchestra – East and West
(33JAZZ235. CD Review by Jeanie Barton)
An eclectic second cd of mainly instrumental music by The Jazz Extempore Orchestra(initially formed as a cultural exchange between Croatia and other European countries) East & West incorporates lyric-less vocalese by pianist Andrea Vicari (From the UK) as well as a song by guest singer and violinist Medina Mektiva from the UK and Azerbaijan. The superb ensemble of Elvis Staniç on guitars and accordion (from Croatia), Rico de Jeer on bass (from Holland/Indonesia) and Hristo Yotsov on drums (from Bulgaria) all contribute compositions.
Opening with Andrea’s funky, syncopated The Occidental Tourist, which although it is much more harmonically complex, brings to my mind, The All Seeing I’s “The Beat Goes On”, this album goes on to incorporate so many diverse musical and cultural influences, I almost do feel like a tourist! Things quickly develop a rock/swing facet with Elvis’ Breakout, featuring fabulous, fluid playing by all with Andrea’s sweet, choral vocal tone gelling the irregular bar lengths into a melodic melange.
Eastern flavours come to the fore with the Azeri folk song Sari Gelin; although arranged in 4/4 by Andrea this number sways as though in it’s original 6/8 – Medina’s haunting vocals and violin performed in unison add an authenticity that takes this number beyond the jazz sphere and into a class of it’s own. Track 5, Elf by bassist Rico (aptly performed in 5/4) maintains this delicate hue. It is a favourite of mine on this ever evolving album (which no one track is able to define) Elvis’ lap steel gives a country feel to the recording – somehow bringing the outdoors indoors.
The title track by drummer Hristo sets pulses racing while allowing space and swing to establish it’s self in sections of half time and even quarter time feel – Andrea and Elvis are equally matched in their dexterity with a duel-like head to head. There follow more compositions by each of the ensemble including Base My Life, a bubbly African sounding number by Andrea and another nod to traditional folk music, this time from Croatia with Ivan Klakar, about a fictitious character in folklore who survived a terrible storm at sea in a boat. The melody played on Elvis’ accordion lends the feel of a sleepy sea shanty to this track, again arranged in 4/4 as opposed to the original 3/4 making for more a contemporary interpretation.
With so many diverse numbers on one CD, this already acclaimed album seems to be bucking the more recent commercial critical preference for albums containing little or no variety of style. Personally, I like to hear a varied set both in live and recorded performance and immensely enjoyed the journey they took me on.
The album is officially launched at London’s 606 Club on the 22nd of October and I hope to catch them performing live at the Bonington Theatre, here in Nottingham for Jazz Steps on the 24th!