Lars Møller: ReWrite of Spring
29 September 2016
The New York City Jazz Record
In an act of extraordinary imagination and deep homage, the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra (AJO) and its conductor Lars Møller take on one of the landmark works of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Møller invited a former teacher, saxophone master David Liebman, and percussion maestro Marilyn Mazur to help realize this ambitious undertaking in both studio and live recordings.
From the “Evocation of the Ancestors” section of Stravinsky’s original comes the rhythmic and harmonic germ for Møller’s Part 1, “Evocation”. It starts with some subtle percussion underpinning from Mazur’s udu drum and progresses insistently to include Liebman’s impassioned soprano and then a blaring complement from the orchestra’s wind and rhythm sections. Michael Bladt, an AJO veteran, takes a smoking tenor solo and proceedings culminate in a famous chord straight from Stravinsky.
Next, there’s a very brief “Interlude”, which features chords from elsewhere in the piece and a paean to Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. The playing is haunting and a simple pointer to the increasing drama on the way. The live version does not include the interlude but rather an introduction more suggestive of the original opening. Part 2, “Spring Movement”, is rich and emotionally poignant, with an opening that feels ancestral thanks to Mazur. The orchestral playing, somber and atmospheric, is soon joined by the sinuous and assertive soprano, which works with the orchestra to hypnotic effect.
“Procession” is the final part of this brilliant work and is spectacularly colored by Mazur’s hand percussion, leading first to sensitive, muted chords in the winds and the rest of the band and then into an almost jam feeling with a hot guitar solo from Thor Madsen and more of Liebman’s sparkling soprano work. The energy and motion seem unbounded. The section and the work end as the orchestra wails to a fade-out. It’s a stunning realization expertly played.