Skilled in notated as well as improvised music, the 14-piece Paris-based Onze Heures Onze Orchestra (OHOO) takes themes from 20th- and 21st-century compositions and bends them into stimulatingly expressive tracks. Since two percussionists are part of the collective, a forceful rock-like beat adds to the thematic dislocations.
No component overpowers the others, however, which is why for instance From Crippled Symmetry uses Morton Feldman’s creation as basis for a lusty big-band swing piece driven by Magic Malik’s muscular flute, Alexandre Herer’s piano clipping and dramatic eloquence from one of the alto saxophonists. Just as dynamic, but spared from novelty, Conlon Nancarrow’s Study for Player Piano No. 20 throbs as patterns bounce between piano and Stéphan Caracci’s ringing vibes, as graceful brass and burly percussion give it more orchestral shape than the original.
Europeans aren’t neglected either. Two tracks inspired by Olivier Messiaen boomerang among marching band riffs, electric rock and mellow horn motifs, with one featuring a dissected piano solo and the other now titled Kung Fu 37. Not surprisingly though, the most expressive arrangement is Densite 11.11 inspired by Edgar Varèse. Expanding the original’s lofty intent, the OHOO harmonizes whinnying trombone, growling trumpet, rolls from both drummers and paced kinetics from vibes and piano into a unique recasting.
Unlike efforts to jazz up the classics or elevate improvisation, Vol. II creates a durable synthesis of contemporary sounds that should attract those from every part of the musical spectrum.