Vienna Art Orchestra

Swing & Affairs

As polished as many big bands can be, some of them can be formulaic and predictable, hence a little yawn-inducing, especially about three-quarters of the way through a concert when you’re just glad for those loud trumpet blasts to startle you back to full awareness. Not so with the Vienna Art Orchestra. Now this is a big band! With the creative energy and ideas of a small jazz combo—and an international lineup featuring top-notch musicians from all over Europe, the United States and Australia—conductor/composer Mathias Rüegg’s VAO is a thing to enjoy. VAO’s latest CD, Swing & Affairs, has the 17-piece group (including Italian vocalist Anna Lauvergnac) performing an array of tunes from classical to jazz standards (Mingus to Schubert), as well as Rüegg’s originals, with sensitivity, gusto and often a titillating quirkiness. Love the soprano sax on Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne No. 1,” the bari sax solo on “’Round Midnight,” and the very strange trombone sounds on Eric Dolphy’s “Straight Up and Down.” Rüegg’s “Off Beat Berlin on the Beat,” featuring a thoroughly crazed clarinet, is absolutely mad and fantastic.