Nils Landgren with Janis Siegel ‘Some other time. A tribute to Leonard Bernstein’ CD (ACT) 4/5

nils-landgrenThe compositions of Leonard Bernstein have regularly been covered by jazz musicians over the decades, no more so than the evergreen music of ‘West Side Story’. Among the artists, Dave Brubeck (cool jazz), Bill Charlap (piano trio jazz) Cal Tjader (Latin jazz) and Sarah Vaughan (vocal jazz) have all interpreted in their own distinctive way. For this new project, however, the vision is slightly grander in scale with the Bochum Symphony Orchestra expertly conducted by Vince Mendoza in overall charge and he has already overseen other projects with Herbie Hancock and Al Jarreau. Manhattan Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel needs little introduction and has long pursued a successful parallel career as a solo jazz vocalist while Nils Landgren is the de facto house musician for the ACT label. That said, some of the pieces that work best are more intimate in nature and feature a jazz trio comprising Jan Lundgren on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass and Wolfgang Haffner on drums with subtle orchestrations as illustrated on ‘Somethin’s coming’ which is probably the most individual reading. A lesser known piece, ‘The story of my life’, receives a straight ahead delivery from Siegel. Nils Landgren, while a fine trombonist, has a somewhat limited vocal range, and that is exemplified on ‘Somewhere’ which is far more of a pop interpretation than a bona fide jazz one. For all that his voice is a melodic one. If one had to make a minor criticism, then it would be the paucity of rousing uptempo numbers and that is a little surprising given the uplifting nature of much of Bernstein’s work. Otherwise, this is an impeccable selection and delivery of the composer’s output.

Tim Stenhouse