Institute of Higher Learning

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Kenny Werner is simply prolific. After releasing the stellar live Balloons set earlier this year, he's back in a studio setting, leading the Brussels Jazz Orchestra in a recording of four new compositions and a wonderfully inventive reading of a traditional number. In typical Werner fashion, Institute of Higher Learning is as diverse a big-band outing as you're likely to find. He had a great mentor: during his more formative years, Werner played piano with the Mel Lewis Orchestra, a progressive big-band powerhouse. Combine that experience with his compositional development, and his unusual manner of combining the strengths of individuals inside any size ensemble, and you ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Kenny Werner is simply prolific. After releasing the stellar live Balloons set earlier this year, he's back in a studio setting, leading the Brussels Jazz Orchestra in a recording of four new compositions and a wonderfully inventive reading of a traditional number. In typical Werner fashion, Institute of Higher Learning is as diverse a big-band outing as you're likely to find. He had a great mentor: during his more formative years, Werner played piano with the Mel Lewis Orchestra, a progressive big-band powerhouse. Combine that experience with his compositional development, and his unusual manner of combining the strengths of individuals inside any size ensemble, and you have the makings for an album full of welcome surprises. The three-movement "Cantabilie" begins with a lithe, swinging groove played by reeds and brass in a breezy but restrained form, highlighting Werner's innovative sense of harmony and rhythm. It gets a bit knottier a few moments later when Peter Hertmans' electric guitar just slices his way in -- while introducing Werner -- for a tough solo accented by the pianist's contrapuntal chord voicings and shifting time signatures. The second movement is a sparse, melodic ballad with a trumpet solo by Pierre Drevet. The piano is the only instrument we hear in the intro. As the band enters, carefully, slowly, things become more spacious and slightly dissonant but that taut harmonic sense never ceases, uniting all the disparate elements seamlessly. The final movement is a post-bop, modern jazz tune that swings like mad with hot soloing from Werner followed by trumpeter Nico Schepers. In the backdrop, gorgeous colors and tones take shape, filling the space with an expansive, joyous delight by brass, reeds, and rhythm section. "Second Love Song" is a balladic, restrained, but texturally brilliant tribute to Bob Brookmeyer's "First Love Song," with a wonderful 'bone solo by Marc Godfroid. Werner's arrangement of "House of the Rising Sun" is utterly unique, bold, and challenging; always propulsive, always swinging, no matter how far the melodic frame gets pushed. "Compensation" begins as a midtempo ballad introduced by Werner's tender engagement with melody that gives way to a fingerpopping groove in the orchestral section. The title track closes a moodier, more speculative piece with fine work by Werner, bassist Jos Machtel, and drummer Martijn Vink. The orchestra doesn't enter until midway, elaborating on the two prevalent lyric themes presented by the trio. Institute of Higher Learning is a thoroughly satisfying -- and in places visionary -- big-band date, offering a fine showcase for Werner's seemingly limitless gifts as a pianist, bandleader, and a composer who is now in a league of his own.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/23/2011
  • Label: Halfnote Records
  • UPC: 616892454823
  • Catalog Number: 4548
  • Sales rank: 130,425

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Brussels Jazz Orchestra Primary Artist
Kenny Werner Piano
Kurt Van Herck Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Soloist
Marc Godfroid Trombone, Soloist
Serge Plume Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Frank Vaganée Flute, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone
Bo Van Der Werf Bass Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone, Soloist
Pierre Drevet Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Soloist
Peter Hertmans Guitar, Soloist
Bart Defoort Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Soloist
Laurent Hendrick Bass Trombone
Dieter Limbourg Clarinet, Flute, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone
Lode Mertens Trombone
Nico Schepers Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Soloist
Martijn Vink Drums, Soloist
Jos Machtel Double Bass
Ben Fleerakkers Trombone
Jeroen Van Malderen Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Soloist
Technical Credits
Maria Schneider Liner Notes
Greg Calbi Mastering
Gyuri Spies Engineer
Kenny Werner Arranger, Composer, Producer
Jeff Levenson Producer
Tom Beckham Art Direction
Frank Vaganée Producer, Artistic Director
Steven Bensusan Executive Producer
Traditional Composer
Koen Maes Executive Producer
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