By Jack Goodstein, October 23 2015
When Igor Stravinsky’s avant-garde orchestral ballet The Rite of Spring made its debut in Paris in 1913, it famously met with a near violent reception from the convention-bound audience. Music lovers they may have been, but music like Stravinsky’s was something new, something beyond their ken. Move ahead a century, and what was once so strange and foreign to the ear seems much less revolutionary.
So if you are expecting something as radical as Stravinsky’s original in a composition billed as a tribute to his masterpiece, Lars Møller’s ReWrite of Spring may be a disappointment. There are jazz artists that would be quite happy to create an audience reaction equal to that of 1913, but not, it seems Møller. Directing the 17-piece Aarhus Jazz Orchestra featuring soloists David Liebman on soprano sax and Marilyn Mazur on percussion, he isn’t out to produce a cutting edge experimental piece. On the other hand, if you’re in the market for an intelligent reimagining of one of the great works of modern classical music, ReWrite of Spring is an album you want to hear.
Take a half hour and listen to the original again or for the first time, and then settle down and listen to what Møller does with it. His inspiration, as he puts it in the extensive liner notes, isn’t in the plot of the ballet but it’s “Stravinsky’s methods and techniques,” ones “that only became clear in the jazz tradition decades later, including working with complex rhythmic and harmonic layers.” His work then is built on musical ideas that have become part of a jazz tradition.
The two-disc set offers a studio version of the composition and a live performance. The studio version is a bit more rigid, the live version more spontaneous, a bit more energetic, but both do justice to Møller’s large-scale ambitions. The live disc includes a highly dramatic musical introduction omitted from the studio take. Both are divided into four parts, opening with “Evocation,” followed by a very short “Interlude.” The second part is called “Spring Square,” and “Procession” concludes the work.
ReWrite of Spring follows in the footsteps of those many large-scale jazz pieces that have moved jazz out of the barroom and into the concert hall.