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


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.

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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