Live reviews

Christian Muthspiel & OrJAZZstra at Porgy & Bess, Vienna,

Christian Muthspiel & OrJAZZstra ‘La Melodia della Strada – Omaggio a Federico Fellini’
(Porgy & Bess, Vienna, 18 July 2023. Review by Oliver Weindling)

OrJAZZstra at Porgy & Bess. Photo credit: Thomas Hötzeneder

With the demise of the Vienna Art Orchestra, the city is in need of another band of similar stature. Perhaps trombonist Christian Muthspiel is the person to deliver the update with his OrJAZZstra. He had experience in the VAO for ten years until 2004, and so understands what it is like to play in such an innovative large ensemble. It has many similar attributes, such as the focus on young musicians, though mixed with a few who have already shown exceptional talents, such as trumpeter Lorenz Raab.

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Already in existence for a few years, the OrJAZZstra shows Muthspiel’s skill as an arranger and composer, and merges it with jazz improvisation. Indeed, it has taken over from his own projects as a trombonist/composer, such as the work that he undertook with Steve Swallow, including the Dowland project that we heard at the Vortex. The OrJAZZstra feels very much like an extension of his own personality.

Many of the projects which have inspired Muthspiel over recent years for this band have started with outside influences and have been site specific. The latest, which we heard at Porgy & Bess, started with La Strada festival in Graz in 2022, the title of the festival leading him to work on the films of Federico Fellini. But there is relatively little to relate to Fellini’s own special composer Nino Rota, but more from his own immersion in the films themselves and particular scenes. As he explained, each day’s composing started with 30 minutes or so of watching Fellini films. Particularly potent and memorable was the lively section based on the film Ginger and Fred, which itself was a retelling of the partnership between Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Overall, there is a strong compositional vision in what the band performs. So, while each member has the opportunity to solo, there are often some very complex backing from the band underneath.

There is a new CD of the band just now available (link below), and it certainly should be heard as an individual approach to the balance between arranging, composition and improvisation.

Band Line-up:

Gerald Preinfalk, Patrick Dunst, Yvonne Moriel, Robert Unterköfler, Ilse Riedler, Florian Bauer: saxophones, clarinets
Gerhard Ornig, Lorenz Raab, Dominik Fuss: trumpet, fluegelhorn
Alois Eberl, Daniel Holzleitner, Christina Lachberger: trombone
Viola Hammer: piano
Judith Ferstl, Marc Mezgolits: bass
Judith Schwarz, Marton Juhasz: drums
Christian Muthspiel: compositions, leader

LINK: New album Homecoming Live

Categories: Live reviews, Reviews

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