Seven-time Grammy winning composer/conductor Vince Mendoza has arranged and conducted a suite of songs with the Metropole Orkest that reaches the lofty heights suggested by its title. Mendoza’s work with the Dutch jazz/pop orchestra represents a rare achievement: a recording that integrates strings, big band and jazz quartet into a cohesive whole.
Before listening to the album, I had some reservations. I don’t usually enjoy jazz with strings. The strings often seem like an unnecessary sweetener. Listening to Olympians has changed my mind. Vince’s orchestrations integrate the strings in such a way that they do not sound like a syrupy add-on.
The guest artists Vince has assembled for Oympians are quite impressive. Alex Acuña (former member of Weather Report) plays percussion on Quixote. Alex expertly introduces the listener to the bravado of the tune, which reflects Cervantes’ main character. On Esperanto Dianne Reeves sings with her usual commanding authority. Of particular interest is her scat (wordless vocal) singing with traces of Brazilian melodic feeling. There is a timeless quality to Cécile McLorin-Salvant’s voice on the haunting House of Reflection. Her spare, lovely articulation is a joy to the ear. Barcelona is a fitting composition that accurately echoes that city, and Chris Potter’s tenor solo brings a special fire to the piece.
Vince has written some great passages, particularly on Partido Alto, a song named for the rhythm used in Brazilian music. He places the rhythm at the end to excellent effect.
The last tune on the album, Bright Lights and Jubilations, has a rousing funk beat that brings a unique energy to the whole proceedings. This track was recorded before a live audience and the response is appropriately enthusiastic.
I concur with Vince Mendoza’s observation: “This recording shows them (Metropole Orkest) at the height of their Olympian powers.”
Music – 1: Quixote; 2: Esperanto; 3: Partido Alto; 4: House of Reflections (feat. Cécile McLorin-Salvant) 5: Miracle Child; 6: Big Night; 7: Lake Fire; 8: Barcelona; 9: Bright Lights and Jubilations.
Musicians – Vince Mendoza: Arranger, Composer, Conductor; Metropole Orkest [featured soloists: Arlia de Ruiter, Marc Scholten, Rik Mol, Hans Vroomans, Leo Janssen, Paul van der Feen and Peter Tiehuis]. Guest appearances from vocalists Dianne Reeves and Cécile McLorin Salvant, saxophonists Chris Potter and David Binney, percussionist Alex Acuña, and the late guitarist Ramón Stagnaro (charango).
Released – 2023
Label – Modern Recordings
Runtime – 1:00:00
YouTube Video – Vince Mendoza & Metropole Orkest: Olympians
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