Bleu Orleans, Transformation (Bleu Orleans)

Bleu Orleans, Transformations, album cover

Bleu Orleans, led by trumpeter Edward Anderson and keyboardist Darrell Lavigne and featuring reedman Aaron Fletcher, primarily gained its reputation in the smooth-jazz field since its formation in 2000. Shades of smooth remain on Transformation, though the ensemble reaches out to other realms with some hefty, straight-up jazz and a touch of funk. On four tunes, a string quintet, whose members come from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, adds yet another rich texture to the sound.

The interaction between the group’s core members provides the true strength of the music on Transformation, which, with the exception of one tune, was composed by either Anderson or Lavigne. “Standing Pat,” written by Lavigne, opens with the dynamic drums of Mark Simmons and the solid bass of Chris Walker, both of whom come from noted vocalist Al Jurreau’s band. Lavigne, who on the album performs on both acoustic and electric pianos, steps in, then Anderson’s beautifully clear trumpet trades bars with Fletcher’s inspired alto saxophone—simply a strong jazz selection.

With all of the stylistic variants and the number of fine musicians on hand—guests include master percussionist Bill Summers, alternate drummer Terrence Higgins and more—the album offers an exciting range of jazz perspectives.

Transformation is Bleu Orleans’ best and most comprehensive album to date. If you thought you knew these guys, it’s time for another listen.