Together by Randy Brecker, Mats Holmquist & UMO out now

Together, the combination of Randy Brecker’s trumpet, Mats Holmquist’s arrangements and the UMO Jazz Orchestra, is a modern day classic. It teams one of the world’s great trumpeters Randy Brecker with the superb arranger Mats Holmquist and the mighty UMO Jazz Orchestra for a set of inventive and stimulating big band jazz. The large ensemble performs three Chick Corea classics, “Never Let Me Go,” and five stimulating Holmquist originals with swing, color and spirit.

Mats Holmquist’s utilizes the brilliant 18-piece UMO Jazz Orchestra in a memorable program that features the great trumpeter Randy Brecker along with such fine soloists as pianist Seppo Kantonen, trombonist Heikki Tuhkanen, trumpeter Mikko Pettinen, Ville Vannemaa on soprano, tenor-saxophonist Max Zenger and guitarist Mikel Ulfberg. The arrangements are unpredictable, consistently colorful, and keep one guessing.

The program on Together can easily be divided into three parts:

“One Million Circumstances,” “Summer And Winter” (which has two contrasting sections and some rambunctious trombone from Tuhkanen) and the lyrical ballad “Always Young” are Holmquist originals that feature complex but flawlessly played ensembles along with Brecker’s brilliant trumpet and flugelhorn.

Three arrangements are fresh reworkings of standards: “Never Let Me Go,” “All The Things You Are” (reinvented as an electrifying “All My Things”) and “Stella By Starlight” (which becomes “My Stella” which is coincidentally the name of both Holmquist and Brecker’s daughters). The latter has dense ensembles worthy of Stan Kenton sandwiching a swinging Brecker solo.

In addition, Mats Holmquist and UMO explore a trio of Chick Corea tunes: “Windows,” “Humpty Dumpty” and the rarely performed Corea ballad “Crystal Silence” which has some of Brecker’s prettiest playing.

During the past 50 years, Randy Brecker has been one of jazz’s greatest trumpeters. A household name ever since he teamed up with his late sibling tenor-saxophonist Michael Brecker as the Brecker Brothers in the 1970s, his endless list of associations include the Horace Silver Quintet, Dreams, Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House and nearly every significant jazz artist (and many in the pop world) of the past few decades. Brecker’s playing on Together by itself would result in him being ranked at the top of his field.

Born and raised in Sweden, Mats Holmquist has thus far composed and arranged the music for eight albums as a leader. He has worked with his Stora Stygga (Big Bad Band) in Europe, toured with Dave Liebman, and been innovative in what he calls ”Big Band Minimalism;” a combination of modern big band music with the minimalism of Steve Reich and John Adams.

Mats Holmquist’s arrangements have in recent time been featured on albums by the Dave Liebman Big Band (fresh versions of Wayne Shorter songs), Dick Oatts and members of the Vanguard Orchestra (Herbie Hancock compositions), and the Latvian Radio Big Band (2017’s Big Band Minimalism which has Randy Brecker among its main soloists). Holmquist’s writing, which challenges musicians and excites listeners, is quite original yet grounded in modern jazz while also displaying his love of classical music and the minimalism of Steve Reich.

UMO Jazz Orchestra, founded in 1975, has featured such guest soloists as Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Mc Coy Tyner, Michael Brecker and John Scofield. It is considered Finland’s finest big band.

Artist: Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist with UMO Jazz Orchestra
Album: Together
Label: Mama Records MAA 1056
Street date: 8/24/2018