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Music Review: Jentsch Group Large – Cycles Suite

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Composer-guitarist Chris Jentsch infuses his 75-minute Cycles Suite with meditations on life and the lives of others, allowing the listener time to contemplate alongside the vigilant improvisational passages and high-ceilinged instrumentations.

Commissioned by the New York State Council on the Arts, Chris Jentsch’s 17-piece group unloads on a striking scale within these six pieces. Attempting to find a genre in which to pigeonhole the Jentsch Large Group can be a delicate endeavour, as the players come stacked with rock, jazz, world, and classical influences.

Internationally-renowned trumpeter Mike Kaupa is at the forefront of Cycles Suite, as Jentsch designed most of the pieces around his distinctive tone. Conductor Darcy James Argue fills in for Jentsch’s regular conductor JC Sanford. Reeds are handled by Jason Rigby, Mike McGinnis, Dan Willis, Josh Sinton, and Ben Kono. Jentsch lends his guitar to the proceedings, while pianist Jacob Sacks, double bassist Jim Whitney, and drummer John Mettam flesh out a rock angle for the group.

Also featured are trombone players Alan Ferber, Max Seigel, Jacob Garchik, and Brian Drye. Jon Owens, John Carlson, and Laurie Frink player trumpet.

One of the things Jentsch does really well is assemble airy compositions with loads of atmosphere. The pieces take their time in maturity, springing forth with arresting closeness and astounding profundity. The music stylishly walks a tightrope, pacing lightly between imposing orchestral swells and smaller, more moving moments.

Cycles Suite stands as the finishing work in a trilogy of suites. 1999’s Miami Suite began it all, while 2007’s Brooklyn Suite comprised the middle portion.

Jentsch has imaginatively bookended Cycles Suite with “Arrival” and “Departure,” a pair of shorter pieces. The tunes use similar material, but Jentsch has arranged them with small differences. Drye’s trombone highlights both pieces with scorching solo work.

Kaupa steps to the front of every major movement on Cycles Suite, granting the pieces his own characteristics without taking away from the terrain of the whole. He emotionally handles his trumpet, punctuating and accenting notes with exactitude over Jentsch’s oft-tricky movements.

With Cycles Suite, Jentsch mines the metaphysical and produces an unrestricted, exquisite, demanding piece of work. By using creative compositions and theatrical improvisational passages, he has concluded his trilogy with a model of intellectual and spiritual power.

For information on how to order Cycles Suite, check out Jentsch's website

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