Michael Mantler – The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update (2014) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44.1kHz]

Michael Mantler – The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44.1kHz | Time – 00:54.55 minutes | 578 MB | Genre: Jazz
Official Digital Download – Source: highresaudio.com | © ECM Records GmbH
Recorded live August 30/31 and September 1, 2013 at Porgy & Bess, Vienna, Austria. Mixed and mastered October and December 2013 at Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines, France

In 1968, composer-trumpeter Michael Mantler recorded The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. Released on the JCOA label (and subsequently distributed by ECM), this classic, groundbreaking album of composition and improvisation featured Mantler conducting a large jazz orchestra that included some of the era’s iconic free improvisers as soloists: pianist Cecil Taylor, cornetist Don Cherry, trombonist Roswell Rudd, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, guitarist Larry Coryell, saxophonist Gato Barbieri. In the process of digitizing his catalog, Mantler reacquainted himself with early scores, eventually envisioning fresh performances of this vintage material. With The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update, Mantler has re-imagined his 1960s music for the 21st century, with electric guitar and amplified string quartet added to the instrumentation. The Nouvelle Cuisine Big Band of energized young Europeans, conducted by Christoph Cech and featuring Mantler on trumpet, was recorded in these updated scores live at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess club in 2013. Just as the original did in 1968, the result sounds stirringly contemporary, brimming with dark majesty and a bright sense of sonic possibility.

Trumpeter Michael Mantler has been a fixture on the US music scene for so long that it’s easy to forget the global nature of his career. Born in Vienna, Austria, he came to the US in the early 1960s working with Cecil Taylor and co-founding the Jazz Composers’ Orchestra Association (JCOA). The resulting JCOA self-titled album (JCOA/ECM, 1968) is historic in its scope of content and musicianship including Mantler’s then-wife, pianist Carla Bley, and some of the finest work in the careers of trumpeter Don Cherry and pianist Cecil Taylor. More than forty-five years later The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update brings together some of Mantler’s more recent colleagues—as well as new faces—in a collection that rivals the original in terms of freshness and enthusiasm.
Mantler has consistently worked with variations of his signature style, so not surprisingly there is an element of familiarity in The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update. That’s not to say that the new collection sounds at all dated or that the original doesn’t hold up remarkably well after all these years. Mantler took a very open ended approach in reimagining the original JCOA scores, maintaining the original instrumentation but eliminating the pervasive duplication of instruments. The downsizing doesn’t diminish the fullness of sound as evident from “Update One.” Opening like a large ensemble overture, the piece gives way to Harry Sokal’s tenor saxophone improvisation and a gradual build up to more open spaces.
Mantler is a tactician in his approach to balancing structure and improvisation. Not a fan of the excesses of free playing, he limits such solos while carefully avoiding constraining the flow of creative juices. He has retooled many of the original solos giving some of the previous roles to different instruments. In the course of reimagining these pieces Mantler incorporates a wide variety of styles from the abstract swing of “Update Eight,” where rhythms are disjointed and edgy, to the soulful “Update Nine” that by turns includes elements of classical, free jazz and blues. “Update Five” is strangely reminiscent of Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra (Tetragrammaton, 1969) with the cinematic drama of Gil Evans’s thrown in for good measure. The crossover of orchestration and progressive rock guitar shouldn’t be a surprise to those familiar with Mantler’s eclectic tastes.
Despite JCOA being an important part of jazz history, Mantler has never achieved the recognition of many of the association’s members such as trumpeter Ed Blackwell, bassists Ron Carter and Charlie Haden, guitarist Larry Coryell, drummer Andrew Cyrille and fellow trumpeter Randy Brecker. He maintains a low visibility—as a performer—on The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update with only one notable (but scorching) solo on “Update Twelve Pt. 2.”
Mantler had served a producer and guest artist on the historic Escalator Over the Hill (JCOA, 1971), creating a work whose scope has never been equaled. He has composed around the written words of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter and recorded in the diverse company of the London Symphony Orchestra and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. Still, it may be that Mantler’s reluctance to perform live that has kept him from wider recognition. The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update is sufficient reason to revisit this remarkably talented musician/composer or seek him out for the first time. –Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz


When the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra album was released in 1968, it was an immediate game changer. Group founders Michael Mantler and Carla Bley had enlisted some of the new jazz’s greatest soloists — Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri, Larry Coryell, and Barry Guy — to perform avant music in an orchestral jazz setting. Mantler, who composed the music, had come to the United States from Austria in 1962 and had a background in the classical tradition. While digitizing his catalog in the 21st century, he was surprised at how well the ’60s compositions held up. He took on the task of updating the original material for a new generation of players. He also included pieces that had previously been performed but had never been recorded. These updates (which in some cases sound like entirely new compositions) were cut live over two days in the fall of 2013 at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess Club. The 21-piece Nouvelle Cuisine Big Band was conducted by Christoph Cech, and was aided by an amplified radio.string.quartet.vienna. Mantler plays trumpet, and electric guitarist Bjarne Roupé is a featured soloist. The composer’s stated intention to rework these pieces (written when he was in his twenties) is wildly successful. He doesn’t merely re-create the originals, he re-envisions them. In various pieces, the solos have been given over to entirely different instruments (such as the string group in “Update Nine”), and the balances of color, texture, and dynamic have shifted considerably in the arrangements. He retains his sense of control: there are no extended solos here, all are focused and relatively economical, yet the spirit of spontaneous creation in them holds. This is — as it has always been — tactical, methodical music with vast imagination and kinetic force. The sound on the new recording is startling, present, alive, and crackling. While much of this is due to technological improvements, some is the result of Mantler’s painterly attention to detail — check the staggered harmonic notation in the horn vamp in “Update Six” where each tone is articulated just enough to separate it from the others. The noirish, moody intro to “Update Eight,” gives way to a more pronounced swing dynamic. Several compositions have a stronger, more brooding sensibility than on the original album, and they’ve given way to more fluid and colorful approaches without losing their dimension, as on “Update Ten,” with solos by altoist Wolfgang Puschnig and bassist Manuel Mayr. In the three-part “Update 12,” Roupé offers both an introduction atop the brass and bass, and a searing, majestic solo when the tempo accelerates. When taken as a whole, The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra: Update is a fit companion for the 1968 record. It is a bridge to the past in reference and inspiration; but it’s also an utterly bracing, massively creative offering that pushes the modern big-band aesthetic further up the road. –Thom Jurek, AllMusic

1. Update One (Live) 04:45
2. Update Eight (Live) 06:01
3. Update Nine (Live) 05:45
4. Update Eleven (Live) 07:02
5. Update Five (Live) 05:03
6. Update Six (Live) 07:24
7. Update Ten (Live) 06:46
8. Update Twelve, Pt. 1 (Live) 06:50
9. Update Twelve, Pt. 2 (Live) 02:49
10. Update Twelve, Pt. 3 (Live) 02:30
Nouvelle Cuisine Big Band:
Christoph Cech, conductor
Special guest soloists:
Michael Mantler, trumpet
Bjarne Roupé, guitar
Wolfgang Puschnig, alto saxophone, flute
Harry Sokal, soprano-, tenor saxophone
David Helbock, piano
Bernie Mallinger, violin
Igmar Jenner, violin
Cynthia Liao, viola
Asja Valcic, cello
Manfred Balasch, soprano saxophone, flute
Clemens Salesny, soprano saxophone, clarinet
Wolfgang Puschnig, alto saxophone, flute
Fabian Rucker, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Harry Sokal, soprano-, tenor saxophone
Chris Kronreif, tenor saxophone, flute
Florian Fennes, baritone saxophone
Aneel Soomary, trumpet
Martin Ohrwalder, trumpet
Christoph Walder, french horn
Hans Peter Manser, french horn
Peter Nickel, trombone
Florian Heigl, bass trombone
Alex Rindberger, tuba
David Helbock, piano
Bjarne Roupé, guitar
Peter Herbert, bass
Tibor Kövesdi, bass
Manuel Mayr, bass
Lukas Knöfler, drums