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Album Review

Vince Mendoza's transformation from performer to composer, arranger and conductor has fully flowered over the years with pop singers (Björk, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello,) but also as a contemporary colorist within a jazz framework. Blauklang (Bluesound) is the third in a trilogy of works for the ACT label that Mendoza has created over a 15 year span, this one live at the Traumzeit Festival. It is his most satisfying of the lot, based on the quality of the players from the vaunted WDR Big Band, the timbres selected between horns and strings, and the profound musical interpretation of those blue hues heard. Inspired by the paintings of Ernst Wilhelm Nay, and to a lesser extent Yves Klein or Pablo Picasso, the deep stylistic shadings of those tonal physical artists are turned admittedly serene, enigmatic, and ambiguous. This breezy tone, sans keyboards and with little percussion, might suggest a California dream, but is much more attuned to a European aesthetic, with a little New York neo-bop thrown in for enhancement. Mendoza has clearly heard his share of latter period Gil Evans as well as Lalo Schifrin, and especially Claus Ogerman. "All Blues" appropriately kicks off the set, but is unlike the original, as an atmospheric horn backdrop, drifting away from the famous melody on the second chorus, inspires the at first restrained, then steely lead guitar lines of the incredible Nguyên Lê. This is followed by the reverent and hymnal Catalonian traditional folk ballad "Lo Rossinyol," the non-Cuban "Habanera" sounding more like the standards "Body & Soul" or "My Romance," the intricate lattice chart of the sweet Gil Evans penned 6/8 into 4/4 "Blues for Pablo," and the snippets of light and shadow in space during the waltz "Ollie Mention." The six-part "Bluesounds" concerto is an astounding musical achievement no matter what genre you want to place it in. Markus Stockhausen's pensive trumpet leads through the first two segments, the band picks up in flowing liquid to hip and tight neo-bop sway, shimmers with the harp of Ulla Van Daelen and vibist Christopher Dell during the third section, deferring to a shuffling blues beat from drummer Peter Erskine with the strings of Red Urg 4. The woodwind section and bassist Lars Danielsson back a regal French horn line from the brilliant Arkady Shilkloper on the fifth movement. But the finale is the showstopper, a fast, thoroughly modern, slightly funky tune that will move your head, fingers and toes. Lê's energetic solo and embedded 6/8 accents from the horns buoyed by tuba player Jon Sass will disarm you from the rest of the program. You will be just as pleased to listen as to perhaps make love with a special someone while this shining example of advanced, intelligent, soulfully inspired, utterly beautiful music is playing on your home stereo system. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: November 17, 1961 in Norwalk, CT

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A versatile arranger and composer, Vince Mendoza's music falls between post-bop and crossover, often being creative jazz with pop sensibilities. Mendoza began playing piano and guitar when he was six and grew up around music. He played trumpet in high school and studied composition at Ohio State University in addition to learning drums and bass. His knowledge of many instruments came in handy when Mendoza moved to Los Angeles and began working in the studios, writing for television and movies. After...
Full bio
Blauklang, Vince Mendoza
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  • $10.89
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Sep 26, 2008

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