Jentsch Group Large 
Cycles Suite 
Fleur de Son Jazz (FDSJ 57994) 
Chuck Graham - 

Jazz has always wanted to be taken as seriously as classical music. Long before George Gershwin, and right up until now, that has been true. Composer and guitarist Chris Jentsch continues his full-frontal efforts to integrate jazz into the symphonic form with Cycles Suite, referring to nothing less than the cycle of life. 

This 75-minute concert piece in six movements follows Jentsch’s 1999 Miami Suite and the 2007 release of Brooklyn Suite. Moving from geography to humanity for his subject matter, the composer shifts to sounds of the mind from sounds of the city. The result is a work that feels more mystical, in the sense that the wisest of philosophers have yet to announce the formula for happiness. Finding water on Mars has proven to be easier than identifying the lifestyle that will guarantee a satisfied society and peace on Earth. 

Cycles… satisfies the curious mind and the imagination that could find its own answers in abstract art. On the musical landscape, metaphor reigns. Jentsch uses cacophony to convey the vigorous activity of creation and birth. But listen several more times to the composer’s statement of seemingly random bleats and honks. 

Definite shapes will emerge in the second movement, “Cycle of Life.” These shapes grow in different directions during the next section, “Home and Away.” Maturity makes its stabilizing but bittersweet appearance in “Old Folks Song” with a haunting theme that also insists ‘I’m not dead yet.’ The inevitable does move closer in “Route 666,” becoming an acceptance of death that disintegrates back into the chaos of the first movement. Thus completing the cycle musically as well as mentally. 

Jentsch Group Large, as he calls it, is a conventional 17-piece big band with five reeds, four trumpets, four trombones and a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums plus Jentsch. The conductor, standing alone out front, is Darcy James Argue. Yet the sound is symphonic, without a string section of any kind. Throughout the complete work, Jentsch gives Mike Kaupa prominent flugelhorn solos, making the instrument represent sort of an Everyman. A voice that is always changing as life pushes him along time’s journey whether he wants to go or not. 

Sample Cycles Suite and other music composed by Chris Jentsch here.