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All That Strauss

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Album Review

From Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin to Mahler and Bartok, European classical music has been a source of inspiration to numerous jazz musicians. The 19th Century compositions of the Strauss family are the subject of All That Strauss, which documents a New Year's 2000 concert by the Vienna Art Orchestra—one of Europe's most adventurous big bands. It is quite appropriate that this Strauss tribute concert was performed in Vienna and that the orchestra has Vienna in its name; for many classical greats have lived in Austria's largest city, including Johann and Eduard Strauss. While the Vienna Art Orchestra's love of the Strauss legacy is obvious, the band doesn't treat its compositions like museum pieces. Instead, time-honored compositions like "Donauwalzer," "Albion Polka," "Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend in Wien" and "Lagunen Walzer" are given serious jazz makeovers, and arranger Mathias Rüegg sees to it that the orchestra takes a lot of chances with the material. To some classical purists, the very thought of approaching these pieces as jazz is an act of musical heresy. But in fact, the Vienna Art Orchestra honors the memory of Johann and Eduard Strauss by doing something fresh and creative with their music. All That Strauss won't appeal to classical purists or classical snobs, but from a jazz perspective, it's a gem.


Formed: 1977

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

In the jazz world, Vienna is about as far from New York's Lincoln Center as you can get. It follows that Mathias Rüegg's Vienna Art Orchestra has about as much in common with Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center big band as a Sacher torte has with a Hostess Cup Cake; while they share some ingredients, the Austrian product satisfies on a more profound level. By the turn of the century, the Lincoln Center paradigm defined the jazz big band as a finished concept -- locked into the past, serving mostly as...
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