Michael Leonhart Orchestra

Suite Extracts Vol. 1
(Sunnyside)

To understand where Suite Extracts Vol. 1 is coming from, it’s important to note that bandleader Michael Leonhart has as many original compositions on the album as Wu-Tang Clan and Spinal Tap combined. To call the recording “eclectic” is an understatement, and thankfully the playfulness here goes beyond mere gimmickry.

Leonhart’s orchestra is amplified by guest spots by the likes of saxophonist Chris Potter and guitarist Nels Cline. The 11-minute collision of Spinal Tap and Ornette Coleman, though, should turn a lot of heads on its own: An almost marching band-like movement states the theme to “Big Bottom,” sly horns articulating over the heavy bass riff. Gradually, the size of the band seems to shrink, making way for a plaintive saxophone solo on what’s become Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” The horns move stealthily, wailing on the melody from the 60-year-old The Shape Of Jazz To Come. But for those more enamored of hip-hop, there’s the radical reimagining of GZA’s “Liquid Swords,” where sinister strings only hint at the Willie Mitchel sample used on the original.

This is bold, energetic music with no fear of pulling from anywhere in the pop world, and it’s a refreshing assessment of the modern standard, each track a puzzle of familiarity.



On Sale Now
February 2020
Nicholas Payton
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