Hard Rubber Orchestra

Crush
Rubhard 04

By Ken Waxman

Like a sleuth of bears awakening refreshed after an extended hibernation, the members of Vancouver trumpeter John Korsrud’s Hard Rubber Orchestra (HRO) have created a rousing CD after a dozen years of silence. Mostly devoted to Korsrud’s jazz-influenced compositions for the full 18-piece ensemble; Crush additionally includes one extended track plus a series of mini-intermezzos that are more indicative of modern chamber music.

On rousing big band pieces such as “Crush”, “Slice” and “Wise Up”, Korsrud boils up a hearty stew that’s two-parts jazz vigor and one-part so-called classical shadings, also favored by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, with whom he studied. Then Korsrud tops off the concoction with large dollops of hard rock and some Latin-like sound sprinkles. The thrust of these Cuba-meets-Kitsilano pieces upticks to gripping tremolo work-outs, especially with the interpolation of long-lined fuzz distortion from guitarist Ron Samworth and some top-of-range workouts from trumpeter Brad Turner, whose brass command and creativity resembles both Maynard Ferguson with Stan Kenton and Lew Soloff with Blood, Sweat & Tears. André Lachance’s bass string pops, Jack Duncan’s percussion color and raucous saxophone slurs from Phil Dwyer, Cam Ryga and Chad Makela toughen the performances as if capturing the noise of studs being drilled into a leather vest.

Instructively the multi-sectional “Come to the Dark Side”, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra is more amorphous, with the 13-piece chamber ensemble lacking a saxophone section but with orchestral instruments such as viola, cello, French horn, tuba, oboe and bassoon upfront. Yet with Korsrud’s trumpet solo characterized by brassy bravado and a percussionist and electric bassist bearing down as forcefully here as on the other tunes, this “dark side” is actually luminescent and related as closely to the other tracks as a fraternal twin is to his sibling.

Crush confirms the continued orchestral dexterity of Korsrud and the HRO. Hopefully another dozen years won’t elapse before there’s another recorded example of these West Coasters’ unified talents.

—For MusicWorks #123 Fall 2015