New Release Review: Lucerne Jazz Orchestra – Oaktree (QFTF)


The following is an excerpt from a recent article I wrote for All About Jazz:

Since its inception in 2007, the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra has established itself as one of Europe’s most innovative ensembles operating within the contemporary big band idiom. Currently consisting of a vocalist (Karin Meier) and 17 musicians under the musical direction of David Grottschreiber, the group has consistently collaborated with fellow trailblazers and featured works by young composers dispersed throughout Europe, all in an attempt to revise and progress the very musical language from which it originated. Oaktree, the group’s sixth studio album, flawlessly documents the distinctive voices that constitute its singular aesthetic through genre-crossing compositions, perceptive arranging, and rousing performances.

Grottschreiber’s “Close Contact” opens the album, dynamically expanding upon a jarring theme that harkens back to post-bop of the past before giving way to atmospheric soloing. Improvisation space is evenly balanced with composed orchestration, fabricating an equilibrium that provides a complete scope of the band’s capacity. After establishing superb musicianship through an expansive original, the group’s aptitude for exploring realms outside of jazz is manifested through trumpeter Aurel Nowak’s arrangement of the late singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley’s “So Real.” Their rendition evolves from a dreamlike trance initiated through a pensive trumpet-piano duet that ushers in hushed orchestration, underscoring Meier’s languid phrasing during the first verse. Gradually, the dynamic range widens with elaborate musical patterns accompanying soaring vocals, culminating in a drum solo that mirrors the ferocity of the grunge-tinged guitar solo embedded in the original.

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