You get the impression that this band could play anything put in front of them.

Challenge Records CR73555

Enrico Pieranunzi (piano); Bert Joris (trumpet & conductor)

Frankfurt Radio Big Band

Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn: alto saxophone, flute; Katharina Brien: alto saxophone, clarinet; Denis Gabel: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Steffen Weber: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Reiner Heute: baritone saxophone; Frank Wellert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Thomas Vogel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Martin Auer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Axel Schlosser: trumpet, flugelhorn; Gunter Bollman: trombone; Felix Fromm: trombone; Christian Jaksjo: trombone, valve trombone; Robert Hedemann: bass trombone: Hans Glawischnig bass Jean Paul Höchstädter drums

There are many virtues attached to this album: the excellent band, the playing of Pieranunzi, the graceful trumpet of Joris and yet you are left in a cloud of wondering, of questions.

What a great band and how good it is that big bands across Europe are given life by radio stations.  There are numerous examples of great playing from the band, especially the trumpet section. You get the impression that this band could play anything put in front of them.  The arrangements by Bert Joris, I suppose, are attempting to be in the spirit of Chet Baker but it is not obvious. Most of Chet’s European work was with trios or quartets. There are interesting jazz contributions from alto saxophonist Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn and bassist Hans Glawischnig, whose work throughout is memorable.

Bert Joris claims to be influenced by Chet Baker and his trumpet style has a passing affinity to the playing of Chet. Although Joris has written extensively for film, television and radio he has not developed a personal arranging style. The arrangements are very pleasant. the recording is brilliant and detailed, allowing individual instruments to be identified.

Enrico Pieranunzi has made a virtue of not drawing attention to himself. He often stays in the background but often you can be too self-effacing. He has written all the tracks, but he has left the arrangements to Bert Joris. the trumpet playing from Joris is better than his arranging which tends to be conventional.

Pieranunzi calls Chet ‘one of the purest talents in the history of jazz’. All of the nine tunes are composed by Pieranunzi and arranged by Joris. Among the titles that Pieranunzi recorded with, and in some cases composed for, Baker: the four earliest of these come from the first album Pieranunzi made with Baker, Soft Journey’,” ‘Fairy Flowers,’ ‘Night Bird’ and Brown Cat Dance.’ ‘Echoes’ was recorded by Pieranunzi and Baker on ‘Silence’ a Charlie Haden album.

‘Soft Journey’ has the gentle lyricism typical of Chet. Pieranunzi transcribed Chet’s original solo and he places it at the core of the piece and the solo has the soft gentle thoughtful playing from Bert Joris.

‘Brown Cat Dance’ is quite aggressive almost Kentonesque.. The band enjoys the challenge of the complex dance rhythm. Felix Fromm on trombone has a turbulent solo punctuated by brass interjections. ’Chet’ has a thoughtful elegiac feeling growing out of Pieranunzi’s intro. Joris plays a solo that is close to a Chet improvisation based solo.  Hans Glawischnig extends the mood.

‘Night Bird’, great tune, features Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn on alto Christian Jaksjo on trombone and Steffen Weber makes a strong tenor contribution.  This emphasises the fact that this is a great band.

This is an enjoyable album with tenuous links to Chet.  Pieranunzi’s knowledge of the trumpeter is unrivalled, but I leave the album thinking that he would have been better playing with Joris in a quartet format.  I also wonder what this great band would sound like in a looser context.