JJ 07/92: The George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band – Blues ’n Dues Et Cetera

Thirty years ago, Mark Gilbert enjoyed the hefty momentum and contemporary aspirations in Gruntz's modern big band. First published in Jazz Journal July 1992

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After some slightly contrived but not inappropriate scratching, and some muscular guitar from John Scofield, Q-Base sets the pace and mood for this rewarding session with menacing slabs of brass. The beat is a driving yet flexible rock one, the horn lines charging, richly dissonant great monoliths of sound. Hunter and Scofield solo, Hunter effectively combin­ing Sanborn’s soul hysteria and Brecker’s harmonic savvy.

The album features two 12-bars – the fairly orthodox Datune, with screaming Jon Faddis and thoughtful but fiery Wallace Roney, and Blues ’n Dues Et Cetera, a bouncing blues that moves between a two-feel and swing and has excellent modern blues lines from Mintzer and Bergonzi.

Elements of musical theatre inform the freeish, quasi-operatic General Cluster and the rap ’n’ scratch of Rap For Nap. Such fine musicians might as well avoid the latter; Anderson sings like a bad David Byrne, his rap a flabby par­ody of Desire’s real thing.

Sentimental Mood gets a severely abstracted treatment, and similar dissonance spices Two Friends, the latter distin­guished by some very vocal tuba from Howard Johnson. It might seem that this dissonance doesn’t always work, but Gruntz rarely overplays it; it’s only one element in an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of orchestral colours. In any case, lyricism finds a safe haven in the reflective Forest Cathedral.

Fine soloists, skilful manipu­lation of big forces, a wide range of mood and a fearless if occasionally comical embrace of pop idioms put this album up alongside Mike Gibbs’s long lost Big Music.

Discography
Q-Base; Datune; Forest Cathedral; Blues ’n Dues Et Cetera; Two Friends; Rap For Nap; Sentimen­tal Over Mental Food – In A Senti­mental Mood; Giuseppi; General Cluster (67.19)
Collective personnel: Gruntz (p); Mike Rich­mond (b); Adam Nussbaum (d); Marvin Stamm, Bob Millikan, Randy Brecker, Michael Mossman, Jon Faddis, John D’Earth, Wallace Roney, Franco Ambrosetti (t/flh); John Clark, Jerry Peel (Frh); David Bargeron, Jim Pugh (eu); Howard Johnson (tu); Chris Hunter, Bob Mintzer, Bob Malach, Jerry Bergonzi, David Mann, Alex Foster, Roger Rosenberg (reeds); John Scofield (elg); Ray Anderson, Art Baron, Dave Taylor, Dave Bargeron (tb); Art Baron (b-recorder, conch-shell); Ray Anderson, Desire, Dave Taylor (v); D.J.A.D. (scratch). NYC, Jan­uary 4, 5 and 29, 1991.
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