When I first heard Joe Lovano’s “Viva Caruso” album a decade ago, I fell in love with a tune called “Streets of Naples.” Listening to the same tune, arranged by Gil Goldstein for the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, with Lovano soloing, I just couldn’t believe my ears. “Streets of Naples” was even richer, even more beautiful.
“Wild Beauty,” a collaboration of the BJO, Goldstein, and Lovano, contains eight tunes that make up the “Sonata Suite.” All of them are Lovano compositions, gathered from various albums over the decades. The added dimensions of the orchestra and Goldstein’s arrangements take them to a new level. The fact that Lovano himself is there to improvise over his own enhanced music is the final brilliant touch.
In his liner notes, Lovano recalls his family’s roots in two small villages on the foothills of Sicily’s Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. He refers to his “volcanic roots” and, true to form, he provides some wonderful eruptions in the form of nicely-shaped solos.
But Lovano is far from the only great soloist here; this is, after all, one of the greatest jazz orchestras in the world. The second star would have to be Hendrik Braeckman who plays magnificent guitar solos on “Viva Caruso,” “Big Ben,” “Wild Beauty” and other tunes. Nathalie Loriers is especially evocative on piano on “Sanctuary Park” and “Powerhouse.” And the horn players, too numerous to name, are excellent at every turn.
And, on par with Lovano, Goldstein is the genius here. The entire album is devoid of big band clichés (just listen to the gorgeous voicings on “Sanctuary Park” and “Viva Caruso”). It boasts a vibrant, fresh sound from start to finish, featuring some of the most innovative arrangements I’ve heard in years. They are complex excursions but happily everyone involved is more than up to the task. At the end of “Streets of Naples,” when Goldstein decides to take the tune into overdrive, the whole band simply gallops off without a hitch.