Rebirth:Collective – Raincheck
(Soul Factory Records SFR-CD005. Review by Quentin Bryar)
Raincheck, a new CD paying tribute to the music of Billy Strayhorn whose centenary it was last year, unites Antwerp-based nine-piece little big band Rebirth::Collective with star Dutch guitarist Jesse van Ruller. It is very good indeed.
Rebirth:Collective is led by trombonist Dree Peremans who also does most of the arranging. They describe their music as building from the hard-swinging tradition of bebop and hard bop of the fifties and sixties, yet with a modern and youthful twist. Think a hip, updated, groovy version of Marty Paich with the subtlety, detail and controlled fire that implies.
All members of Rebirth take solos at some point on the record, but the emphasis here is on Jesse van Ruller, and the superb guitarist, winner of the Thelonious Monk Award back in 1995, dazzles throughout with his soulful and highly detailed playing.
The band’s originality hits you straight away with the opening track Isfahan, arranged by Peremans, which sets off at a brisk medium rather than the ballad tempo familiar from Duke Ellington and Strayhorn’s Far East Suite. Van Ruller plays the melody against swinging unison bass and left hand piano riffs before Wietse Meys takes a couple of soulful choruses on tenor accompanied by guitar, bass and drums. Boppy unison trombone, baritone, guitar and bass riffs follow and then van Ruller stretches out and is joined by the full band before an elaborate ending.
All the arrangements are like this: elaborate and clever, full of contrast and variety but never fussy. The band has a bluesy swagger exemplified by Raincheck where gospelly electric piano from Ewout Pierreux adds colour, van Ruller digs in and there is some full-throated shouting from the brass. Other felicities include a rocky, Brad Mehldau-like vamp intro and outro to Chelsea Bridge, where van Ruller plays the theme beautifully, fiery alto from Bruno Vansina on a brisk Johnny Come Lately, and the leader’s trombone, bluesy guitar from van Ruller and the shouting ensemble on a witty and miraculously unhackneyed Satin Doll.