Vienna Art Orchestra: Jelly Roll, But Mingus Rolls Better


Jelly Roll, But Mingus Rolls Better


Vienna Art Orchestra


Concerto Piccolo (hat ART 6038)

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Mathias Ruegg (leader),

Lauren Newton (vocals), Karl Fian (trumpet), Herbert Joos (flugelhorn, baritone horn, double trumpet, alpenhorn), Christian Radovan (trombone), Billy Fuchs (tuba), Harry Sokal (flute, soprano & tenor saxes), Wolfgang Puschnig (flute, piccolo, alto sax), Roman Schwaller (tenor sax), Uli Scherer (piano), Stefan Bauer (vibes), Jürgen Wuchner ( bass), Joris Dudli (drums), Wolfgang Reisinger (percussion)


Composed by Charles Mingus and Mathias Rüegg. Arranged by Mathias Rüegg


Recorded: live at the Jazz Festival Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, October 31, 1980


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Despite two obscure recordings that preceded it, Concerto Piccolo is widely considered the Vienna Art Orchestra's (VAO) debut release, featuring them live in all their unpredictable, eccentric, eclectic, irreverent and musically accomplished glory. Leader, composer and arranger Mathias Rüegg assembled a fearless group of gifted musicians, whom he challenged as much as they so often challenged themselves and each other. While Duke Ellington, Eric Dolphy, Anthony Braxton and Ornette Coleman would be among those receiving Rüegg's attentions over the years (at least from the jazz world), Charles Mingus was on his mind from the start.

The appealingly titled "Jelly Roll, but Mingus Rolls Better" opens with sinister-sounding harmonized horns leading up to a free-form duet between Scherer's whirlwind piano and Wuchner's thumping bass, before Dudli's high-impact drums join the fray. The horns, along with Newton's amazing voice, perform the first of a series of infectious vamps (mostly derived from Mingus compositions) to appear periodically during the course of the piece. Schwaller's tenor solo is forcefully modal in attack and remindful of Michael Brecker in terms of vibrato, command and intensity, with Scherer's tenacious accompaniment adding greatly to its momentum. Puschnig's brilliant alto next takes over, fleet and exciting, followed by Fian's exuberantly blaring trumpet solo. This is just about the quickest, most diverting 12 minutes you'll ever spend.

Note: The VAO's complete instrumentation has been listed here, since it's impossible with this orchestra to know for sure which of their many instruments are actually being played on a given track, unless you are seeing them in person—and what a treat that has always been!

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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