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Brass Project-Lilacs and Laughter by Florian Ross

Florian Ross, still in his twenties, is a versatile and talented pianist/composer/arranger/bandleader from Germany. His albums reflect his versatility. "Seasons and Places," his debut CD, featured his quintet while his second release, showcasing Dave Liebman, was "Suite for Soprano Sax and String Orchestra." For "Lilacs and Laughter" he has created a variety of inventive and stimulating charts for brass (three trumpets, two french horns, three trombones) and rhythm.

The CD opens with homage to traditional brass music as a beautifully voiced chorale evolves into a high-energy fanfare. For the title cut Ross develops what he terms "a love-hate affair" drawing on edgy rhythms and trumpeter Claus Stotter's now somber, now blazing improvisation.

Acorn to oak. Sketch to skyscraper. That's the creative process and that's what Ross does with four simple vamps- a microcosm of his overall approach to the Brass Project. He is a master builder, shifting the melody between sections, transposing (vamp3 takes you up those stairs without you knowing it), using dynamics, time, tempos and collective improvisation. The band has strong featured soloists in bassist John Hollenbeck, trumpeters Claus Stotter and Eric Vloeimans , and Nils Wogram on trombone. Wogram comes closer to a human voice on Vamp 4 than I thought possible. He and trumpeter Ingolf Burkhart solo on "Mutual Recognition", originally written for Liebman.

Ross's piano is not overwhelmed by all that brass. On Rondo#5, in contrast to what has gone on before, he develops an introspective solo interlude in the same way Jess Stacy did during "Sing, Sing, Sing" at the Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert so many years ago. He also leads a hard- driving contemporary rhythm section that contributes much to the passion of this CD.

You may prefer to let this colorful music just wash over you or else to read those liner notes by Ross describing his creative process. He speaks of the closing "Aldersong" as coming to him in the bathtub. Do not try that at home. It has to be Florian Ross's tub!

Quintet, soprano sax and strings, now brass. What's next, Florian Ross? I can't wait.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Florian Ross
  • CD Title: Brass Project-Lilacs and Laughter
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Naxos Jazz
  • Rating: Five Stars
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