FAME Review: Renolds Jazz Orchestra - Three Penny Opera, Live in Aarau
Renolds Jazz Orchestra - Three Penny Opera, Live in Aarau

Three Penny Opera,
Live in Aarau

Renolds Jazz Orchestra

Shanti Records 020911-3

Available from Renolds Jazz Orchestra's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The last time I reviewed the scintillatingly intelligent Renolds Jazz Orchestra (here), I took the opportunity to rip into the Christian aspect of that disc, The Cube, provoking an interesting but amiable set of communications with one of the ensemble's members. That, certainly, was vastly preferrable to the conflagration invoked when I tore Mike Scott a new one over at Rural Rhythms (and if any of the RJO members were ruffled by my disdain of Xianity in their critique three years ago, they may wish to read the Scott review and be somewhat conciliated). However, I indulged said behavior only after lauding the RJO players' rare virtues alongside the composer's distinctive style, a blend of heady trad, symphonic, and outside jazz sounds. Fritz Renolds is a cat to be reckoned with, he recruits stellar talent, and it's no mistake that he's respected by anyone who lays an ear to his work.

Well, Kurt Weill was decidedly non-Christian, a socialist, and a radical who once was amused when his collaborator, the infamous genius writer Bertolt Brecht, and he failed to set Marx's Communist Manifesto to music, Weill somewhat reticent in that particular aspect of the venture. The attempt, however, was what produced the well-known Threepenny Opera, this disc's subject matter. As before, the band here includes honored vets Randy Brecker and Miroslav Vitous, though every member is a superior musician. Many are the solos and just as numerous the influences and stylings—catch the Brubeckian take on Instead of Song, f'rinstance. One is also as likely to encounter a ululatingly enthralling Pharaoh Sanders cum Anthony Braxton voicing (Wedding Song for the Poor) as the aforementioned Dave, with Freddie Hubbardisms, Steve Coleman inflections, and of course the personalities and mindsets of the players themselves tossed in for a constantly morphing landscape. Everything is a kaleidoscope of surpassing skill and coloration.

The 2-CD set is live, just shy of two hours, and not a minute goes by that you're either grinning from ear to ear or startled by the sheer unceasing brilliance of it all. I'm somewhat reminded of leviathan efforts by such as Carla Bley (Escalator Over the Hill), Centipede (Septober Energy), and precious few others, not necessarily in tone and temper, though there are quite large sympathies here, but in breadth and daring. Then there's the set of aesthetics that wisely re-sets parameters in an age in which sprawling experimentation is too often the rule in a miasma wherein antecedents are not always well understood by fresh-faced bravos a bit too impetuous, sometimes jumping the shark by way of his fearsome teeth. No fear of that here, mate. Normally, I'd lament the absence of Helen Savari-Renold's enchanting vocals, so pleasing in Cube and which would have worked well with Brecht's libretto in this melange of delirious delights (especially given the carpet of innovations in this Three Penny), but, well, the result is so damned good that objections to anything at all would be petulant and counter-productive, not to mention crass. Thus, if it's all the same to you, dear reader, I'll stop here, sit back, close my eyes, and run through the entire 25-song cycle again. Pass the merlot, if you please, and join me.

Track List:

Disc OneDisc Two
  • Overture
  • Mack the Knife
  • Mr. Peachum's Morning Hymn
  • Instead of Song
  • Wedding Song For the Poor
  • Cannon Song
  • Love Song
  • Barbara Song
  • The Uncertainty of Human Conditions
  • Polly's Farewell Song
  • The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
  • Pirate Jenny
  • The Procurer's Ballad
  • The Ballad of the Pleasant Living
  • The Jealous Duet
  • Fight About the Property
  • What Keeps A Man Alive
  • The Song About Inadequacy
  • Song of Solomon
  • Call From the Grave
  • Macheath Asks For Forgiveness
  • The Riding Messenger
  • Three Penny Finale
  • The Final Verses of the Ballad
  • Warehouses Blues
All songs written by Kurt Weill
except Warehouses Blues (Fritz Renold).

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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