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Listening Post: The BPO plays Florent Schmitt and jazz by Mike Moreno and Robin Eubanks’ Big Band.


Florent Schmitt, “Antoine et. Cleopatre” and “Palais Hante” performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta (Naxos). As a music critic, Florent Schmitt was wont to wield irony with more than a little savagery. We learn from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s excellent annotater Edward Yadzinski here that he had fine things to say about mediocrity for its ability to hold excellence and genius in high relief. He was a friend of Satie and Ravel in an era when that was a smart thing to be. He had a nicely premature taste for jazz. As a composer he was kind of a post-facto late Romanticist in a proto-modernist world. His music isn’t world-shaking but it’s appealing. In this new disc by the BPO and JoAnn Falletta, the orchestra’s brass section is called on a great deal and is usually up to the task. The music on the disc was ballet music meant to be entr’actes in Schmitt’s opera on Shakespeare’s play. It is a fragrant, vaguely exotic score and while it doesn’t show off the orchestra a fraction as momentously as the BPO’s brilliant disc of Gliere’s “Ilya Murometz” – not even in its “Orgies and Dances” movement from the second suite – it’s attractive music and very French. Little is more French than a partiality to Edgar Allan Poe, the favorite American writer of the French whose 48-line poem “The Haunted Palace” was evoked in Mallarme’s prose translation by Schmitt. It was composed 16 years earlier than his Shakespeare music and is a bit more interesting. Three stars. (Jeff Simon)


Robin Eubanks Mass Line Big Band, “More Than Meets The Ear.” If there were ever a jazz musician who came by his jazz talent rightly, it’s trombonist and bandleader Robin Eubanks. This is a renowned current jazz family. One brother is the great guitarist Kevin, Jay Leno’s former bandleader. Another is trumpet player Duane, who’s in this band. Their uncle was the late and very great Philadelpha jazz-blues monster pianist Ray Bryant. Eubank’s large band here is an interesting one full of stalwart players – saxophonists Antonio Hart and Marcus Strickland, bassist Boris Kozloff and the late trumpet veteran of so many great jazz dates, Lew Soloff. The concept of Eubanks’ “Mass Line” was filched from China. “I went to China for the first time with the Mingus Big Band. Things have changed so much. They didn’t have a lot good to say about Mao Zedong. But some of the concepts are valuable: about getting a political line from the masses rather than the few corporate folks who throw money at the system.” Eubanks took a year off from teaching at Oberlin to write the piece. As a soloist on the disc, the way he interlards his trombone with electronic effects is unusual and promising for others to expand on. Three stars. (Jeff Simon)

Mike Moreno, “Lotus” (World Culture Music). Think of an abstract version of Pat Metheny. That’s what guitarist Moreno might remind you of in this disc by an impressive quartet – Moreno, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Doug Weiss and the great jazz drummer Eric Harland who has done so much beautiful work with Charles Lloyd, among others. Moreno is a young jazz guitar player from Texas with the usual eclectic jazz experience of a young veteran (Jason Moran, Joshua Redman. Me’Shell N’Degeoccello, Claudia Acuna etc.). Moreno plays both acoustic and electric on the disc with equal panache. His quartet is superb. You can well imagine how fine they would be to hear in live performance too. Three stars. (Jeff Simon)

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