The Vienna Art Orchestra is an ensemble that has never failed to thrill and surprise me and that's saying a lot in the genre of jazz and improvised music. The VAO is that perfect combination of a band large enough to express overwhelming power but possessing the personality of a small combo. Mathias Ruegg and company alternate between and incorporate avant garde and free jazz elements with mainstream and bebop vocabulary and expressions. Many of their recordings are live performances because, naturally, it must be a logistic nightmare to get a dozen musicians into a studio to rehearse and record as well as tour.
I was lucky enough to encounter the VAO in all their glory at the Montreal Jazz Festival about fifteen years ago and was suitably blown away by their power, their subtlety, their wicked sense of humour and, ultimately, their extremely high level of musicianship.
This is not to be missed. Trust me.