Chilcott’s All Good Things – Commotio

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chilcott
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Chilcott
WORKS: All Good Things: Ophelia, Caliban and Miranda; Jazz Songs of Innocence; Nidaros Jazz Mass, etc
PERFORMER: Commotio/Matthew Berry, Bob Chilcott (piano/conductor); Alexander Hawkins (piano), Raphael Mizraki (double bass), Jon Scott (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573383

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Is it jazz? Is it classical? Does it matter? Yes, maybe and no, are probably the answers. More importantly, this CD swings, and is thoroughly enjoyable. In Ophelia, Caliban and Miranda, the opening set of pieces, composer Bob Chilcott seamlessly integrates Commotio, a classically-trained choir, with the jazz combo providing the partly improvised accompaniments. Charles Bennett’s droll texts imagine what might have happened to three Shakespearian characters in a parallel universe, eliciting buoyant, chipper settings by Chilcott of the outer songs, and a more laid-back response to the central Caliban, with smoky saxophone commentary.

The Blake-inspired Jazz Songs of Innocence, originally written for a children’s choir, finds the women of Commotio in zesty voice, neatly nailing the syncopations in the faster numbers, and distilling considerable poignancy in The Divine Image, which concludes the cycle.

The other extended work is the Nidaros Jazz Mass, where the addition of men’s voices makes for more complexity of texture in the vocal writing. Occasionally the chirpy insouciance of the jazz rhythms seems to cut across the solemn import of the Latin text – but then similar complaints are often voiced about Mozart’s sacred music sounding too flamboyantly operatic.

Of the shorter pieces the unaccompanied Weather Report provides the Commotio singers the opportunity to show their paces technically, and they turn in an appropriately dashing performance. It’s also worth noting that there  is nearly an hour’s worth of previously unrecorded music here.

Terry Blain