Copyright © 2009, Dutch Jazz Orchestra. All rights reserved.
52nd St. Review 'You Go to My Head'
Reviewed by J. Robert Bragonier
Dutch Jazz Orchestra: Billy Strayhorn and Standards/You Go to My Head Challenge 2001 Time: 63
Musicians: Jerry van Rooijen (leader), Ack van Rooijen (trumpet, fluegelhorn), Jon Oosthof, Ruud Breuls, Peter van Soest, and Jan Hollander or Jan Wessels (trumpet), Martijn Sohier, Ilja Reijngoud, Hansjörg Fink, Ben van Dijk (trombone), Albert Beltman (alto sax, clarinet), Hans Meijdam (alto sax), John Ruocco (tenor sax, clarinet), Toon Roos and Ab Schaap (tenor sax), Nils van Haften (baritone sax, bass clarinet), Rob van Bavel (piano), Jan Voogd and Frans van der Hoeven (bass), Eric Ineke or Martijn Vink (drums), Arlia de Ruyter and Mieke Honingh (violin), Erica Korthals Altes (viola), Olaf Groesz (cello), and Marjorie Barnes (vocals).
Songs: Autumn in New York; Where or When; The Man I Love; I’ll Remember April; I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance; Moon River; Lover Man; You Go to My Head; Night and Day; Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man; I’ll Buy that Dream; Skylark; I’ve Got the World on a String; Yesterdays
Rating: ****1/2 (out of five stars)
The Dutch Jazz Orchestra, under the committed and insightful leadership of Jerry Van Rooijen, has specialized in performing and recording obscure and often unknown works by the sung and unsung heroes of jazz. Their concerts, broadcasts and recordings have included rarely performed works from Mary Lou Williams, George Handy, Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Claude Thornhill, the Boyd Raeburn Orchestra, and Duke Ellington.
This CD is the second in a series of four recent releases on Challenge Records* presenting newly discovered compositions and unrecorded arrangements of Billy Strayhorn; featured here are fourteen well-known standards arranged by him. Strayhorn was incredibly prolific; of arrangements he wrote for Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, close to six hundred still survive, a number of which have been shelved since they were written.
Only two of these arrangements were previously recorded commercially: “Where or When” was recorded by the Ellington Orchestra as an instrumental (here it is presented in its original vocal version), whereas “Lover Man” was previously recorded in an abridged form (here it is played as written). Four of the selections were preserved on radio broadcasts, almost impossible to obtain. To our knowledge, the remaining eight (underlined above) have never previously been captured on record. This thus represents their world premier performances!
Strayhorn clearly approached his arrangements with the same kind of care and serious dedication he gave his legendary compositions. “You should say, ‘I wouldn’t treat this any less carefully that I would that,’” he is quoted as saying. “You treat them [originals and arrangements] equally. I put the same effort into whatever I do. I try to do the best I can. I feel it is not right for an artist to turn his back on a simple melody just because it’s not a great suite or something or other. It’s a matter of being humble. All artists are humble. All great artists are humble. The ones who’re not are not great artists.” I don’t know that this is what humility sounds like, but I am certain that this album treats us to the work of a great artist. This is timeless music timelessly arranged, and the fact that all but three of these arrangements are more than a half-century old is simply testimony to the innovative nature of Strayhorn’s writing, which was clearly years ahead of that of his peers.
Frequently heard are worries that, after current aging jazz enthusiasts pass from the scene, no one will be left to revere and carry forward this classic music. This CD demonstrates once more that jazz is in good hands, even if some of those hands are European. These sumptuous standards are given respectful, nay, loving treatment by as polished a big band as one would ever hope to hear. It’s hard to pick out a favorite, but “Autumn in New York” could not start off the album more auspiciously, and I’m a sucker for the trombone choir on “You Go to My Head.” If I have one suggestion, it is that one listen to this disc, along with four others, on random play. Listening to this hour plus of balmy ballads in a continuous fashion is like eating a pound of marzipan in one sitting.
*The other three CDs are Portrait of a Silk Thread: Newly Discovered Works of Billy Strayhorn (CHR 70089); So This Is Love: More Newly Discovered Works of Billy Strayhorn (CHR 70091); and Something to Live For: The Dutch Jazz Orchestra Plays the Music of Billy Strayhorn (CHR 70092).
JRB ©2002 J. Robert Bragonier All rights reserved.