Switzerland's George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band made its West Coast debut here Wednesday evening at the Palace as an 18-piece aggregate with decidedly more Americans than Europeans.
Promising "journeys through different landscapes," Gruntz, 55, led his brass-heavy group through an image-laden set of his own arrangements that were texturally rich and darkly moody.
"Inner Earth," a composition by tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, opened the two-hour set and featured the composer soloing in a distinctive, angular manner against a backdrop fashioned from three trombones, two French horns and tuba. The timbrel contrast was maintained in the following "Novelette," a basically gentle-sounding piece that featured wildly patterned solos by trombonist David Taylor and soprano saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky.
Nowhere were contrasts more apparent though in "Happening Now," an aria from a jazz opera Gruntz is writing with poet Allen Ginsberg. The piece, sung aptly by Sheila Jordan, pitted a two-beat chase sequence against a traditional swing feel. The dreary, repetitive lyrics fitted neatly into either mode, however, as did solos by trumpeter Enrico Rava, trombonist Art Baron and tuba player Howard Johnson.