Zurich Jazz Orchestra & Steffen Schorn: To My Beloved Ones

The ZJO offers more of its characteristic blend of painterly atmosphere, harmonic and rhythmic subtlety and swinging, stonking power

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I waxed lyrical about the Zurich Jazz Orchestra’s Dedications from 2020 – an album so good that it led me to compare its multi-stranded achievements with Change Of Scenes by Stan Getz and the Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland Big Band.

Perhaps it was just as well that I hadn’t yet heard the 2017 Three Pictures, the ZJO’s previous collaboration with guest composer, musical director and multi-instrumentalist Schorn. For this is an album so arresting in its various blends of painterly atmosphere, transitional harmonic and rhythmic subtlety and swinging, stonking power that I might have gone completely off the scale (perhaps I just did).

To My Beloved Ones is the third and final part of the trilogy that documents a most special collaboration. To put it in a nutshell: the ZJO is one hell of an outfit and Schorn is surely a uniquely gifted composer, orchestrator and instrumentalist.

The opening Tango epitomises the boldness of Schorn’s assured command of imaginative tempo and dynamics, voicings and atmosphere, with the initial interaction of his rubato C-melody saxophone figures with floating band colour giving way to some cooking, crisply turned grooves and tasty spots for, e.g., trombone and trumpet before the accelerando climax.

The following Die Tochter Des Tyrannen has plenty of that stonking power I mentioned above, while the wonderfully titled For Me Is Just Now Anytime is an elegantly sprung medium-up swinger with fine contributions from Thomas Lüthi (ts), Gregor Mülle (p) and Pius Baschnagel (d) prefacing climactic, kicking and piping ensemble riffing.

Following the relaxed grooves and rich, sometime eerie voicings of Käpt’n Blaubär the concluding title track conjures a deeply reflective, elegiac and valedictory mood in a hovering and beautifully voiced meditation led by Schorn on C-melody saxophone. What an individual; what an ensemble – and what an advert for contemporary European jazz!

Discography
Tango; Die Tochter Des Tyrannen; For Me Is Just Now Anytime; Käpt’n Blaubär; To My Beloved Ones (40.16)
Steffen Schorn (conductor, composer, multiple instruments incl. ss, ts, bar, bs, cls, fs, prepared t, elp, syn); Murat Cevik (pcf, f, af); Reto Anneler (f, cl, ss, as); Lukas Heuss (as, cl, acl); Thomas Lüthi (ts, ss, cl); Tobias Pfister (ts, bcl); Nils Fischer (bar, Eb-Tubax, bcl, contra-bcl); Patrick Ottiger (t, flh, pct); Wolfgang Häuptli (t, flh); Bernard Schoch (t, flh, flugabone); Raphael Kalt (t, flh); Adrian Weber (tb); Rene Mosele (bt); Silvio Cadotsch (tb); Don Randolph (btb, tu); Gregor Müller (p, kyb); Theo Kapilidis (elg, g); Patrick Sommer (b, elb); Pius Baschnagel (d, pandeiro, pc). Winterthur, 25-27 September 2020.
Mons Records MR874635