54 (EmArcy Records)

Metropole Orkest, John Scofield & Vince Mendoza

Released May 10, 2010

Grammy Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2011






The music of 54 defies, in its own way, some of the laws of nature in music. It is born out of pieces initially created and designed for smaller ensembles. Yet when placed with the large scaled collective talents of 54 individuals, the result, though expansive, loses none of the pureness of the original material. Drama is heightened. Beauty is clarified, passions aroused without losing the fresh and personal expression that Jazz is known for – so rare that an orchestra can offer that stylistic expression in the jazz genre. Scofield’s compositional foundation, visualized and crafted by Vince Mendoza, executed by the Orchestra and reinterpreted by Scofield takes these charts to a grand destination. 
The collaboration heard on 54 had its origins back in the 90’s when Vince Mendoza asked John Scofield to play on his first album. John has since been featured on two of Vince’s records and his guitar sound and improvisational skills work well within Vince’s concept. When Mendoza assumed directorship of The Metropole Orchestra, he and Scofield decided to collaborate again with a primary focus on Mendoza’s arrangements of Scofield compositions as performed with The Metropole Orchestra. “Vince is one of the most creative arrangers today and his sensibilities are perfect for my compositions, ” says Scofield. “in addition to Vince’s arrangements, 54 features another pair of Scofield tunes transformed by likeminded arrangers Jim McNeely and Florian Ross. Two classic Mendoza compositions are included to complete the repertoire. “I love playing in this lush setting. This orchestra is unique to any other I know of in its ability to play with a natural jazz feeling,” says Scofield. “It’s a thrill to hear my tunes expanded by the orchestral arrangements and Vince’s tunes are modern masterpieces that I truly enjoy interpreting. The other soloists in the Orchestra are excellent as well.” 
The Metropole Orchestra is the world’s largest professional pop and jazz orchestra. Renowned for its wide-ranging abilities, the Metropole Orchestra performs everything from chansons to World music, film scores, rock and pop tunes as well as high-octane jazz. The orchestra is a regular feature at the North Sea Jazz festival and the yearly Holland Festival along with countless TV and radio programs broadcast to millions. The ever-growing Dutch film and television industry relies heavily on the Metropole Orchestra for its film scores. Since 2005 the Metropole is under the baton of Chief Conductor Vince Mendoza. 
The Metropole Orchestra with Mendoza has shared the stage with a broad sampling of the performers who underscore the ensemble’s flexibility to cover a wide range of genres. Guests have included Oleta Adams, Vicente Amigo, Andrea Bocelli, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, Eddie Daniels, Brian Eno, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Chaka Khan, Pat Metheny, Ivan Lins, Mike Patton, Paquito D’Rivera, John Scofield, The Swingle Singers, Jean ‘Toots’ Thielemans, Gino Vannelli, Steve Vai, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Dino Saluzzi, Turkish singer Sezen Aksu and Fado-queen Mariza. 
A principal innovator of modern jazz guitar, John Scofield has expressed himself in the vernacular of bebop, blues, jazz-funk, organ jazz, acoustic chamber jazz, electronically tinged groove music and orchestral ensembles with ease and enthusiasm. Regardless of the stylistic setting, his distinct guitar sound and compositions are unmistakably Scofieldesque, always coupled with an improvisational excellence and dedicated to the finest in jazz tradition. It is a rare artist that can explore more than one kind of music with true fluency, virtuosity and sincerity but Scofield can, and he’s proven it once again within 54. 
After touring and recording with Miles Davis from 1982 to 1985, Scofield placed himself firmly in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a player and composer. He prominently leads his own groups in the international Jazz scene and has recorded 36 albums as a leader, many already classics. His history of collaborations with jazz legends such as Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Joe Henderson, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Herbie Hancock are uniquely balanced by contemporary projects with Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Mavis Staples, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Government Mule, and Phil Lesh. Scofield’s compositions – in association with composer Mark-Anthony Turnage – have been the foundation of the orchestral piece Scorched. Those and others in increasing numbers and have been performed by some of the world’s leading orchestras. 
Vince Mendoza, the Music Director and Chief conductor of the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra, has been at the forefront of the Jazz and contemporary music scene as a composer and, conductor for the last 20 years. He has written scores of compositions and arrangements for big band, extended compositions for chamber and symphonic settings while his jazz composing credits read like a “who’s who” of the best modern instrumentalists and singers in the world today. Mendoza has also written commissioned compositions and arrangements for the Turtle Island String Quartet, the Debussy Trio, the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Metropole Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, West Deutsche Rundfunk and the BBC. 
Mendoza’s arranging has appeared on many critically acclaimed projects that include dozens of albums with song writing legends such as Bjˆrk, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, Sting and Joni Mitchell. He has 5 Grammy awards and 22 nominations. He was the orchestral voice behind the score to Lars van Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” featuring Bjˆrk, as well as the orchestrations on her CD titled “Vespertine”, and the orchestral CDs of Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now” and “Travelogue”.

Track Listing:

1. Carlos (John Scofield) 8:54

2. Jung Parade (Vince Mendoza) 7:28

3. Polo Towers (John Scofield) 6:49

4. Honest I Do (John Scofield) 4:19

5. Twang (John Scofield) 9:18

6. Imaginary Time (John Scofield) 6:17

7. Peculiar (John Scofield) 7:37

8. Say We Did (Vince Mendoza) 8:21

9. Out Of The City (John Scofield) 5:34


John Scofield: guitar;

Vince Mendoza: conductor, arranger (1-5, 7, 8)

Florian Ross: arranger (6)

Jim McNeely: arranger (8)

Arlia de Ruiter: first violin

Alida Schat: first violin

Denis Koenders: first violin

Erica Korthals Altes: first violin

David Peijinborgh: first violin

Pauline Terlouw: first violin

Feyona Van Lersel: first violin

Seija Teeuwen: first violin

Merjin Robout: second violin

Herman can Haaren: second violin

Lucja Domski: second violin

Wim Kok: second violin

Elizabeth Liefkes-Cats: second violin

Marianne van den Heuvel: second violin

Vera van der Bie: second violin

Mieke Honingh: viola

Norman Jansen: viola

Julia Jowett: viola

Iris Schut: viola

Isabella Petersen: viola

Bastiaan van der Werf: cello

Emile Visser: cello

Annie Tangberg: cello

Jacsha Albracht: cello

Erik Winkelmann: contrabass

Arend Liefkes: contrabass

Tjerk de Vos: contrabass

Jelle Schouten: trumpet

Erik Veldkamp: trumpet

Jan Hollander: trumpet

Ruud Breuls: trumpet

Bart van Lier: trombone

Jan Oosting: trombone

Jan Bastiani: trombone

Martin van den Berg: bass trombone

Janine Abbas: flute

Mariël van den Bos: flute

Willem Luijt: oboe

Pieter Hunfeld: French horn

Marc Sholten: saxophone, clarinet

Paul van der Feen: saxophone, clarinet

Leo Janssen: saxophone, clarinet

Jos Beeren: saxophone, clarinet

Max Boeree: saxophone, clarinet

Joke Schonewille: harp

Hans Vromans: piano, Hammond organ

Peter Tiehuis: guitar

Aram Kersbergen: bass

Martjin Vink: drums

Eddy Koopman: percussion

Murk Jiskoot: percussion

Recorded March 9 – 13, 2009, at MCO Studio, Hilversum, NL

Producer: Vince Mendoza

Executive-Producer: Wulf Muller

Recorded and Mixed by Jonathan Allen

Assistant Engineer: Frank Mathijssen, Gerald Chermin

Mixed by Dirk Overeem

Mastered by Geoff Pesche

Design: HessDesignWorks

Design Concept: Susan Scofield


Guitarist John Scofield’s shared history with Vince Mendoza dates back to the composer/arranger/conductor’s Start Here (World Pacific, 1990) and Instructions Inside (EMI/Manhattan, 1991)—two criminally out of print gems that provided early evidence of Mendoza’s distinctive harmonic language, compositional perspicacity and innate ability to get the best out of an ensemble, regardless of the size. Now an in-demand, Grammy Award- winning producer/arranger who has worked with everyone from trumpeter Randy Brecker and the late keyboardist Joe Zawinul to singers Joni Mitchell and Björk, it was really only a matter of time before Mendoza and Scofield would reunite, this time sharing the marquee with Holland’s Metropole Orkest. 
But 54 goes beyond simply ratcheting up the sonic palette and expanding on material from both artists’ past repertoires. With strings, brass, horns, woodwinds and rhythm section, Metropole has proven itself one of the most pliant large ensembles on the planet through past collaborations with Mendoza (since 2005, the Orkest’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director) including his own El Viento: The Garcia Lorca Project (ACT, 2009) and keyboardist Jim Beard’s Revolutions (Intuition, 2008), and brings all the color of a full-scale orchestra to the table, but with players who are also equally and intimately familiar with the language and liberation of jazz. 

Which is a good thing, as a number of Metropole’s members are featured alongside primary soloist Scofield on tracks like the groove-laden “Carlos,” first heard on the guitarist’s soulful Groove Elation (Blue Note, 1005), but here re-imagined with the kind sophisticated harmony and sweeping counterpoint that speak to Mendoza’s distinct language—a vernacular that has posited him as heir apparent to the late arranger Gil Evans’ mantle. Mendoza’s acumen is especially evident on tracks like the funk-driven “Polo Towers,” from Scofield’s jamband-centric Überjam (Verve, 2002). Originally little more than a sketch of a tune meant to provide a context for extended soloing, here Mendoza’s arrangement still leaves plenty of space for the guitarist’s gritty, blues-centric approach—as ever, perfectly straddling the line between the “out” and the “in,” creating cascading levels of tension-and-release—but turns it into a more full-fledged composition. 
In many ways, Mendoza and Metropole have their work cut out; after all, Scofield’s albums typically function in a single space, whether it’s the soul-jazz of Hand Jive (Blue Note, 1994), from which the swinging “Out of the City” is culled and given a brighter, horn-heavy arrangement by guest arranger Jim McNeely, or the balladic “Honest I Do” and New Orleans Second Line of “Twang,” both from Scofield’s collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell, Grace Under Pressure (Blue Note, 1993). Here, however, Metropole has to cover it all, and cover it all they do. Drummer Martjin Vink, bassist Aram Kerdbergen and keyboardist Hans Vroomans make for a versatile and potent rhythm section. Vroomans also has no trouble keeping up with Scofield, delivering a suitably greasy Hammond organ solo over the descending pattern of Scofield’s “Peculiar,” first heard on Groove Elation (Blue Note, 1995) and here featuring the guitarist wailing with reckless abandon and a visceral envelope filter. 
Scofield’s material dominates the set, but 54 also puts even more modernistic touches on two Mendoza’s tracks from Instructions Inside. Without the programming of the original, and a larger orchestra with which to work, Mendoza turns the already sweeping “Jung Parade” into an even more expansive piece, while “Say We Did” demonstrates the composer’s deeper lyricism, and an ability to use an orchestra to its fullest advantage without ever resorting to stereotypical and saccharine devices. 
Combining Mendoza’s stunning arrangements and some of Scofield’s best playing in years, 54 is a milestone in both artists’ discographies. Mendoza shows that any material—even the barest of sketches—is grist for his pen, while Scofield demonstrates that, no matter what the context, his voice remains assured and unmistakable. More importantly, both artists transcend individual skill to create an hour- long whole that truly exceeds the sum of its many compelling parts.

John Kelman (All About Jazz)