Hollenbeck shows off arrangements on 'Songs I Like'

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013


‘Songs I Like a Lot'

John Hollenbeck/Frankfurt Radio Big Band (Sunnyside)

In the opening moments of “Songs I Like a Lot,” arranger John Hollenbeck establishes the album as another display of his great work with a large ensemble. Like past recordings, he creates such different voicings for a traditional-size big band, the ensemble sounds more like a classical wind ensemble. On this album, he crafts a suite of movements built around songs sung by the wonderful Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann. For instance, he puts together a 14-minute look at Jimmy Webb's “The Moon's a Harsh Mistress,” which makes it more a symphonic adagio than simply a ballad. He takes the traditional “Man of Constant Sorrow” and examines it in a similar 11-minute look. The songs Hollenbeck likes include the quirky “Bicycle Race” by Queen's Freddie Mercury and “Canvas” by Imogen Heap. Besides arranging and conducting, Hollenbeck adds percussion work on the album, a reference to his simpler days as a drummer. The album is enriched by the usual good play of the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

— Bob Karlovits

‘The Jazz Expression'

Christopher Alpiar (Behip)

Some sounds are so classic, they can be stated, copied and redone with little damage. On “The Jazz Expression,” tenor saxophonist Christopher Alpiar leads a quartet that tries to be the classic foursome John Coltrane led in the days of “A Love Supreme.” Of course, he cannot do so. Who could? But Alpiar's forceful, aggressive style is so entertaining, it is fun to hear. The album, which is just under an hour long, consists of five originals topped by the 19-minute “Trane's Pain,” which is full of “Ascension”-era statements. The album stirs some curious thoughts. It was recorded in 1995, but not released until this year, suggesting the saxophonist has had nothing new to say in 17 years. He gets high marks for technique, but the originality is lacking. Why not skip this one and listen to The Man himself.

— Bob Karlovits

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