“I think you’ll really enjoy this CD there are absolutely no dull moments, you are going to be taken on the ride of a lifetime, so enjoy it and let me know when you come back to Earth!” – Randy Brecker. Randy Brecker is back in LEAD Large Jazz Ensemble form w/ Mats Holmquist’s incredible writing and arranging – with UMO Jazz Orchestra!
This CD features three compositions and one arrangement written in the late eighties; “One Million Circumstances”, “Summer and Winter”, “Always Young”, “Never Let Me Go” – three arrangements of Chick Corea compositions; “Windows”, “Crystal Silence”, “Humpty Dumpty” -and two new re-compositions based on famous standards; “My Stella” (“Stella by Starlight”) and “All My Things” (“All the Things You Are”). In other words three different periods are represented; late eighties, beginning of the 2000s (Chick Corea) and the present (re-composition of standards). UMO Jazz Orchestra is the only professional orchestra in Finland specialized in jazz and new rhythm-oriented music. The big band of 16 musicians plays about 80 concerts every year in Finland and abroad. The orchestra plays a diverse range of modern music that is on the pulse of the times.
These arrangements all have little (and not so little) twists and turns that keep you on your toes at all times. There are 3 Chick Corea tunes, ‘Crystal Silence’, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and ‘Windows’ masterfully re-worked by Mats, Two Mats ‘impressions’ or minimalistic versions of so-called “Standards’ ‘Stella By Starlight’ (we both have daughter named Stella by the way), and ‘All the Things you Are’ which are re-imagined with delightful results, the beautiful Ray Evans- Jay Livingston ballad ‘Never Let Me Go’ and then three Mats original compositions: ‘One Million Circumstances’, ‘Always Young’ and ‘Summer and Winter’ each quite challenging in their own way.
Randy Brecker has been shaping the sound of music for decades. His performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Chaka Khan, George Benson and Parliament-Funkadelics to two Grammy winners on Summit & MAMA Records.
Personnel: Mats Holmquist: composer, arranger, conductor; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn. UMO Jazz Orchestra – Teemu Mattsson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Timo Paasonen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mikko Pettinen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tero Saarti: trumpet, flugelhorn; Janne Toivonen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jakob Gudmundsson: trumpet (1, 3-5, 8); Ville Vannemaa: alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Mikko Makinen: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Teemu Salminen: tenor sax, clarinet; Max Zenger: tenor sax, flute; Pepa Paivinen: baritone sax, flute; Heikki Tuhkanene: trombone; Mikko Mustonen: trombone; Juho Viljanen: trombone; Mikael Langbacka: bass trombone; Mikel Ulfberg: guitar; Seppo Kantonen: piano; Juho Kivivuori: bass; Markus Ketola: drums.
“…From the first notes of his first solo on One Million Circumstances, Brecker is clearly operating on DC current while the band coasts smoothly along behind him. Nothing he plays is trite or uninteresting; every solo crackles with brilliance and innovation. He sounds 30 years old all over again…”
-The Art Music Lounge, Lynn René Bayley
“A Finnish orchestra bringing up the rear, Holmquist arrangements and originals filling out the set card and Randy Brecker in front if you still need a tent pole to get into this record—what else do you need for a wonderful jazz excursion? Solid stuff on every count the entire way through, this is playing for listeners that don’t want to be played. With a groove you lock into right from the start, this is the antidote for jive that’s all jive without jiving. A winner.”
-Chris Spector for MIDWEST RECORD
Stimulating exciting jazz Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist, f/UMO Jazz Orchestra – TOGETHER: Anyone who has listened to Randy’s fantastic trumpet and flugelhorn work before will thoroughly enjoy his stellar performances on this album, which features very solid arrangements by Mats, and the full UMO Jazz Orchestra… of course, as always, the best way to get a feel for that is to watch them as they perform “All My Things” live in Helsinki…
…sheer power, and totally full of the verve and vitality you would expect from anything that has Mr. Brecker associated with it.
If it’s ultra-high energy you’re seeking, you won’t find many jazz performances better than the 9:12 opener, “One Million Circumstances”… what this tune will do for you is – “keep you guessing”… there’s nothing “stereotypical” about Holmquist’s arrangements, and Randy’s solos just soar… one of my favorite jazz listens for 2018!
The group’s rendition of Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence” is laid-back, yet full of the vibrant character that only great players can bring to a song… simply beautiful horn work from Randy on this piece.
Holmquist’s original composition, “Always Young”, was a perfect choice for closing the album… if any one tune could inspire an aspiring player to get deeper into jazz – this is it.
You get a full 1:15 listening experience, and if you’re (at all) like me, you’ll find my personal favorite of the nine (long) pieces offered up, “Humpty Dumpty” (another Corea tune) to be a “replay” candidate (over & over again).
I give Randy, Mats and the UMO folks a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this fine aural adventure.
-Contemporary Fusion Reviews, Dick Metcalf
This album combines the famous trumpeter with the 18-piece Helsinki big band in a marvelous collection that includes three originals from UMO director Holmquist and three more from Chick Corea. Tunes like the invigorating “One Million Circumstances” not only give a fresh new appreciation for the swinging power of a big band, but also new respect for Brecker’s soloing talent, as well as pianist Seppo Kantonen. This is one of the most dynamic records in any genre this year, with each tune unfolding like a sonic novel, 75-plus minutes of riveting musical stories. Savor the lush multi-layered arrangement of Corea’s “Crystal Silence,” or the kinetic flow of “Windows.” The arrangement on “Stella” is simply dazzling, symphonic and grandiose, yet endlessly engaging.
-By Jay N. Miller/For The Patriot Ledger (The Best Jazz Albums of 2018)
RANDY BRECKER & MATS HOLMQUIST – “TOGETHER” MAMA Records
Randy Brecker, trumpet/flugelhorn; Mats Holmquist, arranger/composer/conductor; Mikel Ulfberg, guitar; Seppo Kantonen, piano; Juho Kiviuori, bass; Markus Ketola, drums; Trumpets & Flugelhorns:Jakob Gudmundsson, Teemu Mattson (lead) Timo Paasonen, Mikko Pettinen, Tero Saarti, JanneToivonen; Saxophones: Ville Vannemaa, lead alto/soprano/clarinet; Mikko Makinen, alto/soprano/clarinet/flute; Teemu Salminen, tenor/clarinet; Max Zenger, tenor/flute; Pepa Paivinen, Baritone/flute; Trombones: Heikki Tuhkanene,(lead); Mikko Mustonen, Juho Viljanen, Mikael Langbacka, bass trombone.
On this recording, harmonies fly off my CD player like a flock of starlings. This is an exhibit of dynamic orchestration, featuring the arrangements of Mats Holmquist. Randy Brecker is grandly supported by the 18-piece UMO Jazz Orchestra. The Holmquist style seems deeply rooted in the classical genre, with splashes of modern jazz. Trumpeter Randy Brecker is the featured soloist on many of the tunes. His musical accomplishments include collaborations with Horace Silver, Larry Coryell, of course his brother Michael Brecker and their amazing success as The Brecker Brothers, and a significant number of popular smooth jazz and pop recording artists. In this setting, you will enjoy Randy Brecker encircled by the astute arrangements of Mats Holmquist and the orchestra. They utilize composers like Chick Corea, (Windows, Crystal Silence and Humpty Dumpty) along with several songs composed by Mats Holmquist.
Mats Holmquist was born and raised in Sweden and is a first-class composer/arranger who has eight albums under his belt as a leader, four of them released on Summit/MAMA Records. He has also authored “The General Method” called “The Big Band Bible” by Jamey Aebersold who published his book.
The UMO Jazz Orchestra was founded in 1975 and is considered Finland’s finest big band. They have featured a number of iconic jazz names including Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker and John Scofield. Blending these three extraordinary talents, Brecker, Holmquist and the UMO Jazz Orchestra is musical magic.
-Musical Memoirs, Dee Dee McNeil
Mats Homquist is one of the most celebrated arrangers and composers in jazz today. He has been featured with Dick Oats and the Vanguard Orchestra, The Dave Liebman Big Band and many others. Holmquist has recruited the 18-piece UMO Jazz Orchestra from Helsinki Finland with Randy Brecker for “Together”. Randy Brecker remains one of the most prolific and masterful trumpeters for over four decades now. The results are magical.
UMO consists of Ville Vannemaa on lead alto, soprano saxes and clarinet, Mikko Makinnen on Alto Soprano sax, clarinet and flute, Teemu Salminem on teno sax and clarinet, Max Zenger on tenor sax and flute, Pepa Paivenen on baritone sax and flute, Heikki Tuhkanene, Mikko Mustonen, and Mikael Langbacka on trombones, Mikel Ulfberg on guitar, Seppo Kantonen on piano, Juho Kivivuori on bass, Markus Ketola on drums and Jakob Gundmundsson on trumpet.
Mats Holmquist’s compositions and arrangements often sound like a cross between 1950s Duke Ellington and early ‘60s Wayne Shorter but with a signature sound with a modern tough which will stay with the listener forever. The most Ellingtonian pieces are “Summer And Winter,” “Never Let Go,” and “Windows.” Randy Brecker’s trumpet Seppo Kantonen’s piano work is masterful and soulful throughout but most especially on “One Million Circumstances” and “Crystal Silence.”
One of the most striking elements about these compositions and the way they’re executed is the sense of dynamics. The band will take it all the way down to a whisper and then swing in the higher range, creating a compelling excitement from start to finish. “All My Things” is a minimalist masterpiece by Holmquist. It’s both modern and traditional in a big band setting. Ville Vannemaa’s soprano sax solo dances atop of the rhythm section. Brecker’s solo swings beautifully.
UMO’s big band sound weaves together a tapestry of the entire history of big band jazz and beyond. Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” is an uptempo piece that is syncopated like a Monk composition with a dash of
Mingus. Max Zenger’s tenor sax solo almost sounds like a baritone sax. His angular lines cut through the song’s melody with a sense of fearlessness. Brecker burns beyond belief as does Mikel Ulfberg’s guitar solo. Homquist’s arrangement are tight and stellar.
If you’re looking for a big band recording with both a modern and traditional touch, look no further. This is a fabulous album and hopefully the beginning of several more outings between Randy Brecker, Mats Holmquist and the UMO Jazz Orchestra.
-LA Jazz Scene, Doc’s Spot, Devon “Doc” Wendell
Here’s a productive cross-border alliance if ever there was one: American trumpeter Randy Brecker, Swedish composer / arranger Mats Holmquist and Finland’s superb UMO Jazz Orchestra, Together for the first time in a recording studio. The versatile Brecker is the featured soloist throughout, while Holmquist wrote five of the album’s engaging songs and arranged all of them. As for the orchestra, it is letter-perfect from end to end, performing Holmquist’s often strenuous charts with singular proficiency and assurance.
Brecker, of course, needs no introduction to jazz enthusiasts in the States, as he has been a leading light on the scene for more than half a century, starting with the jazz / rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears and often in the company of his late brother, the saxophonist Michael Brecker. Holmquist, less well known but every inch as respected abroad as he is in Europe, proves again (as if proof were needed) that he is an exceptionally gifted writer and arranger, especially on his interpretations of a brace of standards from the great American songbook: “All My Things” (All the Things You Are) and “My Stella” (Stella by Starlight). Holmquist’s other originals (“One Million Circumstances,” “Summer and Winter,” “Always Young”) are no less provocative and charming. Aside from his own compositions, Holmquist centers his erudition on three by Chick Corea (“Windows,” “Crystal Silence,” “Humpty Dumpty”) and another standard, the plaintive ballad “Never Let Me Go.”
Brecker, who seemingly hasn’t lost a step to Father Time, plays sharp and agile trumpet most of the way, burnished flugelhorn on “Never Let Me Go,” “Crystal Silence” and “Always Young.” UMO boasts several admirable soloists of its own including pianist Seppo Kantonen, guitarist Mikel Ulfberg, trumpeter Mikko Pettinen, soprano saxophonist Ville Vannemaa and tenor Max Zenger. Kantonen is especially persuasive on “One Million Circumstances,” “Never Let Me Go,” “Windows” and “Crystal Silence,” while Ulfberg shines on the fast-moving “Humpty Dumpty.” Holmquist, for his part, makes sure the music is rich and challenging, starting with the strong and picturesque “One Million Circumstances” and continuing through the seductive closing anthem, “Always Young.” Whatever the mood or tempo, Holmquist always has something suitable and interesting to impart.
Together is the sort of inclusive musical caucus that happens all too seldom—which is all the more reason to endorse and salute its refreshing outcome. Brecker, Holmquist and the UMO form, as it turns out, an almost unbeatable team.
-Jack Bowers for AllAboutJazz.com
Jazz has certainly expanded well beyond its roots in our country to include musicians residing all over the world. Its presence on the Scandinavian music scene has a long tradition. Together (MAMA – 1056) is a fine representation of this with a Swedish composer/arranger, MATS HOLMQUIST, providing charts for a big band based in Finland, the UMO JAZZ ORCHESTRA, with an American featured soloist, trumpeter/flugelhornist RANDY BRECKER. The arrangements by Holmquist are pure magic. He has a facility for writing charts that are subtly complex, but quite accessible for anyone who is primarily interested in bathing in the sounds of exquisite contemporary big band music. He has a fertile imagination, particularly his reconceptions of “All the Things You Are” as “All My Things,” and “Stella” his take on “Stella By Starlight.” He gives three Chick Corea themes, “Windows,” “Crystal Silence” and “Humpty Dumpty” settings that never relinquish your attention. “One Million Circumstances” and “Summer and Winter” are fascinating original compositions by Holmquist. Brecker is a constant pleasure, particularly on Holmquist’s setting of the lovely ballad “Never Let Me Go.” The orchestra plays Holmquist’s writing in a manner that surely brought a smile to his face. All in all, Together is well named for Holmquist, Brecker and the UMO Jazz Orchestra are on the same musical pages throughout the recording.
-Joe Lang for Jersey Jazz