Ed Partyka/UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra

Last Dance
(Neuklang)

European jazz orchestras have long been forging richly symphonic concert music from the core American big band format, often in conjunction with American composers such as Chicago bass-brass man Ed Partyka, a longtime presence in Europe who now heads the 57-year-old UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra.

Much in the tradition of his mentor, Bob Brookmeyer, Partyka takes UMO to gorgeous, soaring heights with a battery of winds that includes alto flutes, bass clarinets, French horn, tuba and a gamut of saxes, from soprano to bass. Using seamlessly voiced brass-reed combinations that move in intricately braided, parallel lines and engage in little conversations as they build to cinematic climaxes, Partkya marks transitions with brass fanfares and creates soundscapes that move in and out of swing time. Even fans of more gutsy, swinging big bands will find it hard to resist the sheer pastoral beauty of this gorgeous music, available as a vinyl-only release.

The four-part program features two Partyka originals, plus his arrangements of Eliane Elias’ “Para Nada” and Kenny Kirkland’s “Dienda.” Overall, Paryka offers a sweet balance between body and mind on this lush program.