Ted Piltzecker, a renowned vibraphonist, has arranged and produced this delightful and accessible CD. The album comprises eleven tracks, out of which eight are reimagined jazz classics and three are written by the artist himself. The septet, which includes four horns, offers a diverse range of textures and colors that beautifully complement all the songs.
Piltzecker was a member of George Shearing’s international touring band first gaining attention in that bebop band as a trumpeter. After breaking from Shearing, Piltzecker picked up the vibraphone and toured extensively with various-sized bands. In addition to his musical talents, Piltzecker is an active pilot and an accomplished unicyclist.
The album begins with a rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain” from the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz.” The band plays the song at a calm pace, with the vibes leading the way. The band’s interpretation of the jaunty original tune takes on a more introspective tone. The Scarecrow’s musings on what it means to have a brain are conveyed thoughtfully through the music. The trombone returns to the main theme, played slowly to emphasize the contemplative mood. The song comes to a smooth conclusion with the vibes and horns playing off each other in a harmonious interplay in their lower registers.
The song “Nature Boy” is considered to be the song that launched Nat “King” Cole’s career in 1948. The original lyrics of the song mention a group of “Nature Boys”, who were a proto-hippy group of individuals from LA in the 1940s. The song has a slow, organic feel that conjures up a pastoral scene. As the musicians look out at the serene landscape, they feel calmed by it, and play and restate the melody across the vibes, bass, and harmonized horns. The trombonist takes a solo before the ensemble brings it to a peaceful ending. According to Pritzecker, this song is always a pleasure to play.
The classic tune “Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson has been given a fresh, updated arrangement by the musician Pritzecker. A fresh intro updates the Nelson version, and gradually transitions to the original theme of the song. While Pritzecker alludes to the original, he doesn’t exactly reproduce it in this version. The middle section of the song showcases Pritzecker’s mastery of the vibraphone, accompanied by crisp harmonies from multiple horns. Towards the end, the musicians revisit the original theme and add their unique touch to this timeless tune.
The jazz piece “New Orleans” composed by Hoagy Carmichael starts with the bass clarinet, followed by the trumpet. The rest of the band accompanies John Gunther’s extended bass
clarinet solo, showcasing his mastery of the instrument. The recording accurately captures the tone of the bass clarinet, as Gunther plays through the instrument’s range, with Pritzecker’s vibes following his lead before a brief solo section. Teppa’s arco bass section complements the arrangement well. Gunther concludes the piece with another masterful section before the whole band wraps it up. This is one of my favorite tunes on the album with its feel and tight arrangement.
The CD concludes with an upbeat rendition of “Seven Steps to Heaven,” the Miles Davis and Victor Feldman classic. Once again, the arrangement serves as a clear indication that this is not just any other version. Pritzecker and his team leave their mark on the song by taking turns at solos and returning to the theme with slight variations in note selection. This excellent version of the timeless tune brings new voices to the melody and extends the song harmonically.
The horn arrangements on this CD are particularly noteworthy, especially since they were performed by a septet (and occasionally a nonet). Piltzecker expertly guides and blends the instruments throughout the arrangements, allowing for concise and tasteful solos. Additionally, the CD offers a rich array of colors and textures, thanks to the four-horn section. Overall, I highly recommend this CD.