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Unit Eleven - Song for Her by Michael Loesch

Unit Eleven is a small band with a big sound, based in Italy's South Tyrol region, founded by saxophonist Helga Plankensteiner and pianist/composer Michael Lösch in 2001. Well-schooled and experienced, these musicians have no problems with the orchestra's diversified and exhilarating jazz repertoire.

Lösch studied piano with Franco D'Andrea, Barry Harris and Kenny Barron. (I don't know where he studied the Hammond B-3 , but he can sure make my favorite instrument rock!) All but one of the nine originals on Song for Her are his. He lists Ellington, Mingus, Carla Bley and Gil Evans as reference points but definitely has a style of his own that takes full advantage of the unit's instrumentation (two trumpets, trombone, bass trombone, alto, tenor, baritone and rhythm) using counter melodies, setting and changing grooves and moods with backgrounds that emphasize the low-register instruments.

For Song for Her Unit Eleven was augmented by two guest artists. They reached across the nearby border for saxophonist Florian Bramböck of the Vienna Art Orchestra and stayed closer to home with veteran Italian guitarist Sandro Gibellini.

The funky opener, "Hotel Anatol," is a wonderful vehicle for Bramböck's sparkling alto and Lösch's formidable Hammond, both comping and solo. Bramböck contributes a fine bari performance to "Love Mode," an arrangement that builds and builds. And then he and the band go free in "Stress." a chart that perfectly defines that emotion.

Gibellini and Lösch are showcased on "Dear McCoy." After a dramatic trumpet entry, the guitarist weaves long impressionistic lines and punches out intense chords followed by Lösch's agile piano solo. He also swings out on "Fastfood" which includes a powerful tenor solo by De Rossi. "Profili," is a majestic Spanish-tinged chart by Stefano Colpi, providing further opportunity for Gibellini.

"The Saint," a catchy number, tiptoes into swing with more Hammond by the arranger and a raucous trombone offering by Beppe Calamosca, who also tours with Carla Bley. There's an air of mystery about the title tune. Its intriguing opening is one of many demonstrations of Lösch's ability to blend sound in an original manner. Helga Plankensteiner on alto and bassist Stefano Colpi provide outstanding contributions.

Compelling music. Incidentally, very well recorded.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Loesch
  • CD Title: Unit Eleven - Song for Her
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Splasc(H) Records
  • Tracks: Hotel Anatol, Love Mode, Dear McCoy, Song for Her, Stress, Slow Loop, Fastfood. The Saint, Profili
  • Musicians: Walter Civettini(trumpet), Paolo Trettel(trumpet), Helga Plankensteiner (alto sax), Renzo De Rossi (tenor and soprano sax), Enrico Dellantonio (baritone sax), Beppe Calamosca (trombone), Peter Cazzanelli (bass trombone), Michael Lösch (piano and Hammond), Stefano Colpi (bass), Stefano Bertoli (drums) with special guests: Florian Bramböck (alto and baritone sax), Sandro Gibellini (guitar)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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