Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Metropole Orchestra [Metropole Orkest]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

As a young man aspiring to make a career in music, the catchphrase as I was maturing in the business was – “Don’t give up your day gig.”

Fortunately for my career in the music business, I came-of-age in the greater Los Angeles area where discipline, diligence and the ability to read music resulted in a decent living being earned by playing club dates, working casuals and receiving some studio calls for gigs involving TV and movie soundtracks, commercials and jingles.

I even got to play at the famed Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach, CA for six months as part of a college quintet that spelled the featured group while the latter took a dinner break during the famous [infamous?] 2:00 PM – to 2:00 AM Sunday marathons at the club.

Bassist Howard Rumsey, The Lighthouse’s impresario, fed us, gave us all the free Coca Cola we could consume and provided enough actual money to pay for a fill-up in my ’55 Chevy; but hey, it was THE Lighthouse and I think that all of us in the group would have paid him to make the gig!

The era of resident orchestras as maintained by the movie studios was coming to an end, although a number of local municipalities sponsored bands for their summer concerts series, and there were many classical orchestras in the area, too.  But this kind of “legit” work never appealed to me [sitting around for what seemed like hours, counting 142 measures of “rest” and then picking up two huge, heavy cymbals to strike them together once before sitting down again to count more measures of rest was not my idea of playing music]. 

Sometimes, the chance to pick-up a few schimolies by riding a bus with a big band came my way, but the music was generally uninspiring and the downside was being out-of-town when the studio contractors called, thus losing your place in the hierarchy.

Imagine my surprise then when I learned that many cities in Europe kept radio orchestras on staff that were supported by various state governments. Can you picture it – being on salary with benefits and showing up for work each day to play Jazz on a regular basis – and this is your “day gig?!” Heck, they even got paid for rehearsals [and the music obviously sounded much because of this extra time to learn it].

Most of the major European countries, but especially Germany and Holland, maintained such aggregations who in turn supplied a steady stream of music for broadcast over radio and television as well as a fairly active performance schedule at some of these countries most renown concert halls.
Holland, a nation of only around sixteen million people, provides government support for two, such orchestras – The Metropole and The Concertgebouw – the former playing at concert venues throughout The Netherlands while the latter performs primarily at its namesake auditorium in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, for those of us without ready access to Holland, until the advent of concerts streamed via the internet, the music of these orchestras was not widely heard outside The Netherlands.

To compound matters, since it lost its recording contracts with the Koch and Mons record labels, commercial CDs by The Metropole Orchestra are only rarely available and the Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra, for the most part, has underwritten the issuance of its own recordings during its comparatively briefer existence.

However , thanks to the munificence of a Dutch internet Jazz buddy, as well as, one in southern Oregon – neither of whom I’ve ever met in person – I have been a regular “visitor” to most of the concerts performed by these orchestras over the past ten [10] years or so.

In order to help its readers to sample some of the music of The Metropole Orchestra, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has prepared the following YouTube.

The audio track features trumpeter Terence Blanchard and his quintet performing Miles Davis’ Au Bar du Petit Bac with The Metropole Orchestra. Miles wrote this tune as part of a soundtrack he composed and recorded in 1957 for director Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour L’échafaud [Lift to the Scaffold].




Listening to the way in which the string section of Holland’s magnificent Metropole Orchestra plays Jazz phrasing, one wishes for a time machine so that Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown could be re-make their famous “with strings” albums and benefit from a string section that knows how to play Jazz.

The reasons why The Metropole Orchestra are so adept at Jazz phrasing are explained in the following article about the orchestra, its history and evolution by the noted Jazz author, Mike Hennessey.

[Incidentally, when the string section is included, it is referred to as The Metropole Orchestra and sans strings it is The Metropole Orchestra Big Band.]

Also integrated in this piece for JazzProfiles’ readers is an overview of the orchestra and its origins and development as excerpted from the orchestra’s own website - http://en.metropoleorkest.nl/mco_page/theorchestra.

The High-Flying Dutchmen - Jazz Now, July 2004 issue

Mike Hennessey spotlights the unique Metropole Orchestra

© -Mike Hennessey Jazz Now, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The Metropole Orchestra was founded in 1945 by the Dutch Radio Foundation. It came into being because, after the Second World War, Holland's newly re-established public radio network needed an ensemble capable of producing high quality music programmes covering every genre of light music.

Dolf van der Linden was appointed chief conductor and was given the task of recruiting musicians for the orchestra. He began by contacting top class Dutch musicians who were playing in orchestras all over Europe and inviting them to return to Holland to join the new ensemble.

The son of a music dealer who owned several musical instrument shops, van der Linden took violin and music theory lessons from his father, who was an excellent player, and later studied composition at a music academy. When he was 16, he took a job as a theatre organist and, from 1936 to 1939, he worked regularly as an arranger for various radio orchestras. It was after the war that he concentrated on conducting.

The 17-member Metropole Orchestra made its début on November 25, 1945 and has since won international acclaim as a major institution of the European music community.

There is no other ensemble like it anywhere in the world.
The orchestra today has 52 full time members, all on regular salary with full social security and pension rights. It plays an average of 40 concerts a year and spends about eight weeks a year doing studio productions. It is financed by the Dutch government and has an annual budget of 5.5 million euros.

Dolf van der Linden was chief conductor for three and a half decades, up to his retirement in 1980, and he developed the ensemble into an orchestra which included a full symphonic string section and a conventional big band line-up.

The orchestra rapidly earned a glowing reputation throughout Europe, first through radio and television productions initiated by the European Broadcasting Union, then later through live performances in various countries. To date, the Metropole Orchestra has performed in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Norway, Greece and the United States.

Over the years, the orchestra has worked with a glittering array of world-class vocalists and instrumentalists from the worlds of opera, operetta, musicals, Jazz, rock and pop. But perhaps Dolf van der Linden's greatest achievement was that, in spite of playing in a multitude of musical styles and in constantly changing circumstances, particularly with regard to technical developments, the orchestra always maintained a strong identity of its own.

When van der Linden retired in 1980, he was succeeded by Rogier van Otterloo, the son of the celebrated conductor, Willem van Otterloo. He rapidly brought the orchestra up to speed with the newest developments in music and adopted a double rhythm section policy, one for Jazz and the more traditional forms of light music and one for pop and rock music.

Rogier van Otterloo's involvement with the orchestra came to an untimely end with his death in 1988 at the age of 46. It took a number of years to find a worthy successor and it was in 1991 that Dick Bakker, already a successful composer/arranger, was appointed chief conductor and artistic director.

Bakker studied music at the Hilversum Conservatory and also qualified as a professional sound technician. He has won many international awards and it was with his song, "Ding-a-Dong", that Teach-In won the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest. Since 1982 he has expanded his European activities, composing and arranging music for the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, among others.
The brilliant Dutch composer and arranger, Rob Pronk, was the Metropoleís guest conductor for 21 years the current principal guest conductor is the Grammy Award-winning Vince Mendoza.

The roll call of artists who have appeared with the Metropole Orchestra over the years is staggering and richly diverse. It includes Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach, Kenny Barron, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Michael and Randy Brecker, Ray Brown, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Pete and Conte Candoli, Eddie Daniels, Manu Dibango, CÈline Dion, George Duke, Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Flanagan, Art Garfunkel,

Gloria Gaynor, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Jones, the King's Singers, Lee Konitz, Hubert Laws, Joe Lovano, Vera Lynn, Bob Malach. Andy Martin, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Peter Nero, the New York Voices, Bill Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Frank Rosolino, Zoot Sims, the Supremes, the Swingle Singers, Lew Tabackin, Clark Terry, Toots Thielemans, Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Werner, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson and the Yellowjackets.

Arrangers and composers who have contributed scores to the Metropole's book include Bob Brookmeyer, John Clayton, Steve Gray, Peter Herbolzheimer, Bill Holman, Chuck Israels, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza and Rob Pronk.

The Orchestra today has its own recording studio with the control room built by NOB Audio and the control room acoustics designed by the British company, Recording Architecture. Recordings are made and mixed using a Neve VR Legend 60-channel console and a protools mix cube. In addition, there is a hard disc editing system, the full range of state-of-the-art out-board gear and custom-made ATC monitoring facilities. The whole set-up is designed for Dolby Surround post-production and has projection systems installed for the recording and editing of film and television scores.

For live recordings the orchestra uses Audio 1, a mobile studio with separate recording and machine rooms, which is equipped with a first class SSL console, plus state-of-the-art microphones, outboard-gear and monitoring facilities.

Recordings by the Metropole Orchestra are not that easy to come by, but amazon.co.uk currently has 21 releases listed on its website, including albums featuring such guest soloists as Claudio Roditi, Swiss saxophonist George Robert, German saxophonist Peter Weniger, trombonist Andy Martin, bassist Chuck Israels, Clark Terry, Dee Daniels, Bill Perkins, Jiggs Whigham and Lew Tabackin.”

© -The Metropole Orchestra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The Metropole Orchestra is the world's largest professional pop and jazz orchestra. Renowned for its wide-ranging abilities, the Metropole Orchestra performs anything from chansons to World-music, film-scores, Rock- or 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 its Chief, four-time Grammy Award winner Vince Mendoza, and can be seen frequenting the concert stage, in festivals and on recordings in the Netherlands as well as internationally.

A sampling of the performers who have shared the stage with the Metropole Orchestra underscores the ensemble’s quality and flexibility to cover a wide range of genres: Oleta Adams, Vicente Amigo, Antony & The Johnsons, Within Temptation, 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, Trijntje Oosterhuis, the legendary Turkish singer Sezen Aksu and Fado-queen Mariza, just to name a few.
The CD recording Ivan Lins & The Metropole Orchestra with the Brasilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins, released in August 2009, received a Latin Grammy for 'Best Brasilian Album'. 

1945-1980

The Metropole Orchestra was popular right from its inception in 1945 by founder Dolf van der Linden, who led the group from one success to another. When van der Linden formed the group shortly after the Second World War, his mandate was to create an ensemble with the ability to produce high level performances of pop and jazz music for public radio. He traveled extensively throughout Europe to find the right mix of musicians for his orchestra. His refreshing and challenging musical ideas spoke directly to a public starved for a new musical culture after years of war. Dolf van der Linden directed the orchestra for 35 years. Radio, and in later years television broadcasts helped spread the orchestra’s fame even further. International tours and pan-European broadcasting (EBU) brought the Metropole’s musical message to countless listeners all over the world

Perhaps the greatest compliment to the legacy of Dolf van der Linden is that the Metropole Orchestra has maintained its own unique musical personality and still continues to develop within an increasing variety of musical styles and technical innovations.

1980-1991

The energetic, young Rogier van Otterloo, the son of the famed classical maestro Willem van Otterloo, followed van der Linden as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor. Van Otterloo’s enthusiasm was contagious and the orchestra developed into a first-class ensemble with the flexibility to work in the newest genres in light music, from rock 'n roll onwards. The Metropole Orchestra was expanded to include a double rhythm section, one for pop-music, the other for jazz- and World-music. Van Otterloo developed into a major figure as composer and arranger. Soloists from genres ranging from American top jazz stars to Opera divas joined forces with the Metropole Orchestra. The orchestra contributed greatly to the growing European jazz scene.
 
1991 and beyond

Dick Bakker’s arrival to the Metropole brought a new life to the Metropole orchestra. The group made countless appearances in large-scale television productions at home and abroad and a selection of memorable performances including the Acropolis concert with George Dalaras and Mikis Theodorakis in Greece, and performances at Amsterdam’s rock temple, Paradiso. At the same time, The orchestra moved to a new, modern studio and worked steadily on recordings for radio, television, cds and film soundtracks.

In 1995 Vince Mendoza began his relationship with the orchestra primarily in the area of jazz. The relationship blossomed with the music that he wrote for the orchestra as well as the concerts and recordings featuring many of the top Jazz and Pop soloists in the world. During this time a new fleet of arrangers and composers joined the ranks to create the contemporary sound of the orchestra that you know today. In 2005 Mendoza became the chief conductor and continues to maintain the high level of performances that the public has grown to expect from the orchestra. Today the Metropole is active with more than 40 concerts a season on concert stages all over the Netherlands and internationally.


INTERNATIONAL SOLOISTS

The Metropole Orchestra prides itself on the glittering array of great artists it has worked with. In alphabetical order, the lineup of stars: Oleta Adams, Sezen Aksu, Antony & The Johnsons, Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach, Victor Bailey, Kenny Barron, Shirley Bassey, Jeff Beal, Jim Beard, Tony Bennett, Andrea Bocelli, Terry Bozzio, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Ray Brown, Patrick Bruel, John Cale, Amit Chatterjee, Chico Cesar, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Pete and Conte Condoli, Elvis Costello, The Creatures, Pete Christlieb, Ronnie Cuber, Eddie Daniels, Manu Dibango, Céline Dion, Eva de Dios, George Duke, Brian Eno, Sertab Erener, Peter Erskine, Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Flanagan, Bruce Fowler, Art Garfunkel, Gloria Gaynor, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrel, Conrad Herwig, Roger Hodgson, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Al Jarreau, Ingrid Jensen, Hank Jones, Junkie XL, Mike Keneally, Nancy King, The King's Singers, Lee Konitz, K's Choice, Hubert Laws, Ivan Lins, Joe Lovano, Vera Lynn, Kevin Mahagony, Bob Malach, Mariza, Andy Martin, Nancy Marano, Dina Medina, Daniel Mendez, Pat Metheny, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Andy Narell, Daniel Navarro, Silje Nergaard, Peter Nero, Ed Neumeister, The New York Voices, Trijntje Oosterhuis, Alan Parsons, Mike Patton, Bill Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Fabia Rebodao, Diane Reeves, Paquito D’Rivera, Frank Rosselino, John Scofield, Zoot Sims, Sister Sledge, Mike Stern, The Supremes, The Swingle Singers, Lew Tabackin, Within Temptation, Clark Terry, Jean 'Toots' Thielemans, Tulug Tirpan, Mel Tormé, Rafael de Utrera, Steve Vai, Gino Vannelli, Sarah Vaughan, Harvey Wainapel, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Werner, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson, The Yellowjackets and Karim Ziad.

INTERNATIONAL COMPOSERS/ARRANGERS/CONDUCTORS

Michael Abene, John Adams, Manny Albam, Jeff Beal, Bob Brookmeyer, Dori Caymmi, John Clayton, Michel Colombier, Bill Dobbins, Clare Fisher, Steve Gray, Tom Harrell, Peter Herbolzheimer, Bill Holman, Chuck Israels, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza, Bob Mintzer, Ennio Morricone, Ed Neumeister, Chuck Owen, Gunther Schuller and Maria Schneider.