For those who, as the expression goes, “know what good is,” my title should be enough. The Frank Roberscheuten Hiptett has created a new two-CD set called FOUR SEASONS, and it’s a delight. I was tempted to call this post A BOX OF BEAUTY, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a small seasonal wordplay.
It’s taken me a long time to write this review, not because of I couldn’t find things to admire. Rather, I found too many, and the set has a chameleon-like quality: every time I thought I had its essential nature pinned down, ready to be put in to words, the next track came up and I had to rethink everything. Yes, you could compare it to the varied, ever-changing sensations we experience as we go through the year, or a delicious table spread with tasty dishes as far as the eye can see or the arm can reach. Or, perhaps, you should hear something first before being pummeled with metaphor. I’ve picked two compositions that share a summer theme.
Much of the delicious variety of this offering is because of the deep imaginations of reedman Frank Roberscheuten and singer-songwriter Shaunette Hildabrand: their delight in not doing the same thing, not repeating themselves, bubbles through the two dozen performances that make up the set. On alto, Frank can evoke the austere passion of a Desmond, then turn around and make me think of late Benny Carter with hints of Pete Brown; on clarinet, he suggests a warm De Franco; on tenor, a child of Cohn and Getz with notes of Freeman . . . but I never point to the speaker and say, “Did you hear that phrase going by? That’s [insert famous name]?” because Frank is his own man with his own sounds. Shaunette is such a warm-hearted singer that even if she were to sing the most acidic satiric lyrics they would sound like a hug, and when she sings of emotional openness her voice redoubles the caress of the lyrics. Her voice in itself is welcoming: I thought of Teddi King. And her lyrics are neat without being self-consciously clever, a good fit for the melodies they enliven. Pianist Olaf Polziehn makes me think of Hank Jones or Ellis Larkins . . . is their higher praise? And the other musicians — guests as well as regular members of the Hiptett — never hit a note that blares or is hard-edged. It’s possibly dangerously old-fashioned to write this, but the set is pretty music . . . not wallpaper, not Easy Listening, but music that gently invites the listener in and does not operate on the platform that Modern Art has to be chokingly hard to swallow to be valid. It doesn’t hurt a bit that the pivot for each season is an improvisation on a Vivaldi theme, with others by Rodgers, Ralph Burns, Waller, Carmichael, as well as the originals — strong melodic lines — by Frank, lyrics by Shaunette.
There’s an overriding lyricism, whether the sentiment is light-hearted or sorrowful, emotive but always with melodic and harmonic inventiveness and rhythmic motion:
Here’s what Frank has written about the set (taken from his site https://frankroberscheuten.com:
About one year ago the world we live in changed dramatically. Our social and in some cases professional lives, have been reduced to almost nothing. A stable factor in this turbulent year, however, was nature. The days passed like every year, season after season. These changes of nature inspired Vivaldi in the early 18th century to compose his famous “Quattro Stagioni”. The four seasons are, indeed, very inspiring with all the different colours, sounds and wonderful perfumes. They motivated me to produce this recording with my Hiptett, featuring different musical guests. This album consists of four parts, each starting with a transcription of the original Vivaldi composition, supplemented with jazz standards and my own original compositions. Vocalist Shaunette Hildabrand created lyrics for each season. Her input and that of Olaf Polziehn, Jos Machtel and Oliver “Bridge” Mewes are impeccable. Bert Boeren, Hein de Jong and the vocal quartet add interesting textures to the CD. As always, Geurt Engelsman did a fabulous job with the recording. Just contact me if you would like to order this double album. firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone. Enjoy the Four Seasons with the Frank Roberscheuten Hiptett.
It’s a beautiful creative effort and a purchase with definite curative powers. When the world is harsh, it will remind the listener that it need not be so; when the world is gorgeous, it will be the best soundtrack.
May your happiness increase!