Mulberry Street Symphony
[2 CD set]
(2022 - Unit Records - Switzerland)
The opening composition on 'Mulberry Street Symphony' instantly grabs one's attention with nearly a Stravinsky/Copeland fusion of rhythmic celebration and fanfare. A clue that one should not make the error that this release is a classical only project. If one knows Anders Koppel's history of work (from early preteen classical student of winds, and quick mastering of keyboards (as teenager) to world exploration and without boundary works of all sorts - not discounting his late 60's and early 70's psychedelic rock band Savage Rose) then this will not surprise them, however anyone unfamiliar will exclaim "why have I not heard this brilliant composer before?" So now is the time to absorb and enjoy a 2 disc set of beautifully mingled jazz./classical/world fusion that has more flare and delightful twists than anyone could hope for.
The musicians involved with this are his son Benjamin Koppel, also famous for his gift of saxophone and composition (who has worked with many other masters of the jazz world such as Palle Danielsson, Thommy Andersson, Kenny Werner, Charlie Mariano, Jack DeJohnette and far too many to list). Father and son have worked together many times with grand success on each endeavor. It almost feels automatically granted. Seeing that Anders father ( Herman D. Koppel) was a supreme classical composer, and then Anders brother Thomas Koppel - RIP) who also was once in Savage Rose and did plenty of soundtracks and various music, now Anders son carrying the torch, it is not short sighted top think perhaps a musical gene can be passed down for artistic talents. Especially at the high level this family tree has continued to produce. The Danish master is still amazing people to this day. If you observe the select group Anders chose to perform this, it shows his intent to not only compose about a connection of Denmark to America, but he also used musicians from both countries to implement it.
If there is anyone in the world I know that could apply this better to, I do not know them yet. But the quote "I am a part of all that I have met" by Alfred Tennyson, does indeed fit Anders Koppel. The method to how he writes music (not for just himself, but for all musicians he composes for, knowing fully well how to do this task with experience) is instinctual and flawless. This describes all the music on 'Mulberry Street Symphony'. It is boundless, descriptive (as it is about seven photographs from reformer and photographer Jacobs Riis,who immigrated from his native country of Denmark to America, in 1870). This project projects the images Riis, took over a ten year period, in New York City, , and revealed the poverty of living conditions for most of the Jewish immigrants, which later turned out to be included in the book "How The Other Half Live" by Riis himself..In short, the seven compositions Anders created, are audio descriptions of those chosen pictures of various stages and reality of what Jacob Riis, found. Perhaps unsettling at times, but as humans are too aware of in 2022, the world is not a kind place to exist. More than ever, the wealthy have taken over each facet of the huge population of people who struggle just to make life possible. The rich continue to control, grow , and feel nothing in their hearts but lust for more money. Exactly like an out of control drug addict, who must have more more more. And no conscience other then to take more.
There is little doubt that the double disc release has a symphonic platform, with abundance of both treble and bass spectrum percussion (my reference to Stravinsky) and a core stability of alto sax by Benjamin, impeccable bass (by Scott Colley - American bassist who has another long list of cohorts such as Pat Metheny, T. S. Monk, Art Farmer, Joachim Kühn and endless others, as well as his own releases), Brian Blade (American drummer extraordinaire who worked with a humongous A list of brilliant artists such as Joni Mitchel, Wayne Shorter, Iron & Wine, -hordes more, and his many self formed outfits like The Fellowship Band, and a debut solo album 'Mama Rosa' (as writer and performer). At the end of this album (CD2- track #4 - titled "Encore: Puerto Rican Rumble ), Anders makes a special appearance on organ, which gives goose bumps with that haunted European circus effect (it has no equal). The Odense Symphony Orchestra is conducted by British born Martin Yates (who got his most known start with Israel National Opera in "Carmen". A most gifted crew of people make this heart- felt project the magnificent collaboration it is. Full of vigor and surprise, often giving the feel of improvisation, as Anders is generous with open scores that allow this possibility. Also the revelation is that not all the compositions are grim, or filled with woefulness. In fact, there are more celebrated and tones of resound in the music than not. A resilience rings out mighty loud in fact. A short drum solo in 'Tommy The Shoeshine Boy' (track #3) is outright sunny. The fact that Anders is well known by other musicians (just ask his son) to be fun to work with, is not lost on this affair. The output is unreal at times.
I intended to write this review for the average person on this planet. There will surely be plenty of intellects who pose and spew fancy words, maybe for the longhair music society, but I know full well, that thousands of the very people this music is about, will appreciate having some common sort and easy to relate thoughts, written for you to simply enjoy a wondrous set of compositions. And this is from someone who still cares. I can tell you after speaking with Anders several times over the years, that he cares too. I am certain his son Benjamin cares as well. Both successful, although not losing touch with reality for so many others in the world. Keeping a heart in this cold world. But that said, the album at hand gives just the opposite effect on all that gloom. An audio experience to never be forgotten is what the listener gets. I listened three times and was dizzy with both amazement and hopefulness. A very surprising set of pieces that defy the temptation to get down and out. Sure there are a few pauses of blues inspired moments, to bring out the suffering, and I most urge everyone to buy the physical 2 CD set, as it has a nice booklet that shows and describes each photograph so you know what the works are about and have that visual right in your hands are you audition this masterpiece. SALUTE Anders once again for a monumental presentation. MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 - 14 - 2022