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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Octets By Alec Wider - The George Russel Octet

House Detective Registers
Octets By Alec Wilder
The George Russell Octet
MGM Records E3321

From the back cover: Along with the penning of hit songs and the composition of impressive symphonic music, Wilder has been active as an arranger and orchestra in both the jazz and "long-hair" fields. For example, at one point in his career while working upon a commission for a large orchestral work for Howard Barlow and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, he was chief arranger in the development of the accompaniments used by Mildred Bailey in her radio and recording appearances. Jazz elements crept into his serious music and elements of serious music into his "pop" material. At first, this exchange between occasionally opposed fields within his music was uncontrolled, though the result was usually apt and right in effect. Then, however, Wilder began to develop his remarkable series of octets which, at last public count, extended to nearly thirty in number. These octets are designed to have all the spirit and drive of improvisatory jazz, but they are carefully arranged and most performing parts are fully written out. Liberties on the part of the performers are provided for, but only within a rather strictly confined range. The rhythms and accents are always those of "pop" music, but the manipulative techniques are those of rigid classical counterpoint. On this level, the similarity to Bach seems remarkable. The harmonies are pungent, modern, and adventurous, neither revolutionary nor conservative.

The scoring, in all cases, calls for flute, Bb clarinets, oboe, harpsichord (or piano), bass clarinet, bassoon, English horn, bass and drums.

The back cover description does a good job of capturing the approach of the set. I can only add, that while the disc is physically broken up into actual tracks… the set plays through more like one piece of music. The tone is sort of "loopy" as if you were walking through a haunted house… but the atmosphere hadn't turned "dark" yet. Even though each song might be thought of as an "extension" of the track you just finished listening too… each track is just as engaging as the one before it. Becoming "engaged" in the set might take two of three tracks, however, by the end of the set you'll likely want to listen to the album all over again.

Seldom The Sun
Pieces Of Eight
Neurotic Goldfish
Such A Tender Night
Little Girl Grows Up
Remember Me To Youth
She'll Be Seven In May
Dance Man Buys A Farm
The Amorous Poltergeist
House Detective Registers
Walking Home In The Spring
The Children Met The Train
Little White Samba

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