Friday, April 06, 2007

Tuesday Night Orchestra - 03/04/2007@Sounds, Bruxelles

I don't think I'd ever seen a real big band (you know, five reeds, four trombones, four trumpets, rhythm section, unmiked musicians who stand up to take their solos) up this close. It packs quite a punch: the first few rows of tables were wisely unoccupied (especially since the saxophone section sat in front of the stage rather than on it) and even from further back, tuttis hit with startling force. So all the little details were exposed: the cueing, the struggle for newcomers such as trumpeter Jean-Paul Estiévenart to fit into their tightly-constrained solo slots, the way the trumpet section's top-note man angled his trumpet to signify his status, the trombone slides flying in different directions, the way an unamplified flute serves more to flag intentions than to be heard.

The Tuesday Night Orchestra is made up of young Flemish musicians (Estiévenart was the only south-of-the-(linguistic-)border exception) and convenes on the first tuesday of the month at the Sounds. They played in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis style that the Brussels Jazz Orchestra is currently Belgium's best exponent of (cf. its latest CD, Countermove). Not something I'm a huge fan of (but I have the greatest of loves for an earlier BJO album, The Music Of Bert Joris, which favoured poetry over power), but it was fun to hear live.

Showing why Thad Jones was a master of the form, the band sounded best playing his "Back Bone:" it instantly gained in brightness, power and swing. A bushel of Bob Mintzer compositions, however, didn't grab me, "Latin Dance" felt more didactic than dancey. Things picked up with the closing pairing of "Sonnymoon For Two" and "Straight, No Chaser." Both were given simpler arrangements pitting saxophone section unison theme statements against trombone punctuation. The soloists were generally fine. No real revelations, but enjoyable confirmations, such as saxophonist Bruno Vansina's feature on Kenny Werner's arrangement of "Portait of Jenny," where the mellow orchestral swells buoyed his sensitive balladeering.