REVIEWS OF ORIGIN SUITE
Jeff Tamarkin (Music Journalist)
Origin Suite accomplishes what so few contemporary big band albums are able to: It projects an intimacy, even as it opens vista upon vista and layer upon layer. So in sync are Michael Waldrop and his uniformly superb crew that - even at its most expansive, even as its soloists present their personalized statements and as its charts enter uncharted worlds - there's a singularity of vision throughout. A plethora of emotions, textures and languages reside within these dozen compositions, from the blistering elation that blasts from the opening passages of "La Jungla" till "Still Life" gently takes its leave more than an hour later. With so much to savor, so many new delights saying hello with each new listen, Origin Suite is a truly sweet original. Additionally the audio engineering is crazy good..it's the kind of recording you want to use to test your audio equipment on
Jazzenzo (Netherlands) (David Cohen)
Composer, percussionist and vibraphonist Michael Waldrop defines music as follows: "a serious ordering of sound that strives to send messages to the listener, which can not be communicated by spoken or written language". From someone who has formed such clear thoughts about nature and the task of music one is inclined to expect a lot of good things.
The 'Origin Suite' amply satisfies these expectations. Waldrop guides the listener through a landscape that covers a hundred years of jazz history and packs that history in a consistent, uniform yet non-monotonous style. The CD opens with a large 'Origin Suite', on which the big band shows what kind of technical delights she is capable of. The background vocals by Marc Secara and Jimi Tunnell give the band sound just that little extra. Tranquil ballads like 'Belgrade', inspired by the Belgrade after the Yugoslav Wars, and the serene piece of nature 'Through the Mist', are juxtaposed with swinging ('Doo Dat Tang'), then unadulterated grooving pieces ('Ivana '), almost all of the compositions of the bandleader himself, who is a teacher at the Eastern Washington University in daily life. For the immediately convincing arrangements, mainly composer and arranger Jack Cooper signed.
The only piece that remains a strange duck is 'Mouzon', which guitarist Jimi Tunnell composed especially for this album as a tribute to the percussionist Alphonse Mouzon, who died in 2016. The style of Weather Report, the band that Mouzon played in, is not so much embraced in 'Mouzon', but reappears, with sound effects that are more disturbed than they cause extra expression. With grandiose compositions such as 'Doppler Effect' this little manco is quickly driven from memory. The tribute to Naná Vasconcelos (1944 - 2016), called 'Vasconcelos', succeeds better in recalling the music of the honored, without being at the expense of Waldrop's own style. The album comes with the 'Still Life', slowly weaving through the style of ECM jazz, to a worthy conclusion.
'Origin Suite' is the work of a skilled, versatile and progressive musician who has surrounded himself with a remarkably large number of professionals for his album. Although Waldrop is clearly the band leader, he proceeds without putting his own game too emphatically in the foreground or his own ability to run away. Such an attitude is also evident from the biography on his web page: "As is true for any serious musician, Michaels' most true musical career can be heard in his music and performances." If it is true that the style is man himself, Waldrop deserves admiration for his musicians and for the result.
Jazz Journal (London) (Brian Morton)
4-STARS The heart sinks a little at the threat of a concept suite celebrating the span of human history, then bucks a little with the thought that there have been some very good ones: Mingus's Pithecanthropus Erectus, Grachan Moncur III's Evolution, George Russell's The African Game...
This latest attempt, written in emulation of Buddy Rich's epic suites, actually only occupies the first 10 minutes of a long and richly varied CD and seems relatively modest in its ambitions, drawing its most obvious inspira-
tion from Wilfred Lam's jungle canvases. The immediately striking thing is how confidently Waldrop and collaborators Jack Cooper (Suite, Sheath And Sword), Jimi Tunnell (Mouzon) and Gerald Stockton (Doppler Effect) write and arrange for a drummer-led ensemble that has comfortably assimilated squally electric guitar and bass, plus chorused and processed vocals into a basic big band formation. Items such as Mouzon, with the dedicatee remembered in Weather Report rather than Eleventh House mode, put the horns at a discount in favour of full-choke electric fusion. Tunnell's guitar and vocal effects - already prominently featured in the opening sequence - and Scott Kinsey's piano or synth dominate the foreground, but it is Waldrop who provides the real energy, here as elsewhere. Interestingly, he sidelines himself somewhat on Vasconcelos, another obvious
musical parent, in favour of Brad Dutz's percussion. An effective rather than virtuosic vibes player, Waldrop uses his second instrument for pianistic melody lines.
Then, just when you're thinking of reaching for the volume knob to put distance between yourself and another electric storm, Doo Dat Tang shimmies into the room, full swing-band dynamics with a hard-bop core. Waldrop
doesn't parade his eclecticism. It just seems to come naturally to him, which is why a set that could have seemed impossibly bitty and unstructured, whatever its episodic excitements, actually works beautifully as a unit and maintains an impressive head of steam for well over an hour. As the huge personnel implies, though the actual record in no way betrays, Origin Suite was recorded in many different locations and on different dates, with a shifting personnel and much use of overdubs. It's remarkable how seamless and entire it all sounds. A very impressive project and one to shelve among the keepers, alongside Waldrop's fine earlier Time Within Itself.
Modern Drummer (Ilya Stemkovsky)
Origin Suite is a swinging, grooving big band disc with drummer, vibraphonist, and composer Michael Waldrop adding thoughtful support under some fine frontline solos. Waldrop works out over the Latin flavors of "Origin Suite: 3) Al Final de la Noche" with sensitivity and wonderfully controlled snare and tom interplay. ...