The Painted Lady Suite is the debut album by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra (MLO). Inspired by the incredible 9 thousand mile migration of the the “Painted Lady” butterfly. This suite is broken into two parts with seven movements. Each part represents, two separate journeys of the “Painted Lady” butterfly. One journey is over North America to Canada. The other from the Arctic Circle over Europe to North Africa. Additionally, this compilation also contains three earlier pieces composed by Leonhart specifically for MLO. First, is the additional track “In the Kingdom of MQ”. A cool march , with a stimulating solo by tenor sax player Donny McCaslin. “In the Kingdom of MQ” is dedicated to Leonhart’s younger son Milo. Portraying his son’s confident steps from toddler-hood to the joyful discoveries of being a young boy. Next,” Music Your Grandparents Would Like” is what fusion is all about. A “big band” swing with a rock feel, guitarist Nels Cline delivers a solo which Zappa would appreciate. Thirdly the piece, “The Girl From Udaipur” depicts a family trip to India. The baritone sax solos of Ian Hendrickson-Smith and Jay Leonhart bring this album to a chilling close.
First of all, I love this album because each song delivers a taste of the classical masters, such as Ravel and Stravinski. If you are familiar with “Bolero” by Ravel, you can definitely recognize his influence in a lot of the music on this album. Furthermore, you can also hear the influence of rock guitar legends Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix on this album as well. Finally, the glue holding this album together is the style of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.
This is a definite “add” to your collection. This album is perfect for any mood, therefore a must have for all Jazz aficionados. Additionally, the progress and evolution of MLO parallels the journey of the “Painted Lady” butterfly. Hence the creation of “The Painted Lady Suite”, which really hits home. More importantly, this album is an illustration of a blend of genres that work well together. “Painted Lady Suite” is solid, however the three additional tracks are what really make this album exceptional.