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I don't know if this is composer/arranger/bandleader Anita Brown's first album, but if it is, she couldn't have arranged a more impressive coming-out party. Brown is a composer whose remarkable craftsmanship and insight enable her to inscribe picturesque orchestral themes that hang together extremely well and also swing "in their own sweet way. She is aided and abetted on 27 East by a blue-chip New York-based ensemble in whose ranks are such familiar names as saxophonists Dave Pietro and Ed Xiques, trumpeter Greg Gisbert, trombonist Bruce Eidem, pianist Mike Holober, bassist Mary Ann McSweeney and drummer Tim Horner.
Three of the seven compositions, Brown affirms, were inspired by one of her favorite places, the area around Montauk, NY. These include "The Lighthouse, a somber vehicle for Gisbert's expressive trumpet; "Shifting Tides of Montauk, whose variable rhythms underscore thoughtful statements by McSweeney, flugel Evan Barker, tenor Tom Christensen, bass trombonist Jeff Nelson, trombonist Mike Christianson and alto Todd Bashore; and "27 East, a billowing treatise whose undulating motion is meant to depict "the various ways in which a wave crests, or doesn't. The ardent solos are by baritone Xiques and tenor Jason Rigby.
The groovy opener, "Wake Up! (complete with wordless vocal effects and a touch of Brahms' Lullaby ), recalls an embarrassing moment when Brown fell asleep in the front row during a performance by the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and conductor Jon Faddis (a good friend) instructed the audience to shout "Wake Up! at her (it didn't intrude on her slumber). It starts like a "rehearsal session with small talk and brief piano tune-up before Brown says "here we go and counts off the tempo for Holober, McSweeney and Horner. Pietro takes the first solo, followed by Eidem (muted) and trumpeter Scott Harrell.
Brown wrote the winsome "Alexander's Lullaby Waltz to honor the birth of a nephew who may one day ask, "Aunt Anita, did you really write that for me ?" Gisbert is again featured, this time on flugelhorn. "The Touch of You, a peaceful ballad featuring trombonist Mark Patterson, was inspired, Brown says, "by a trombone player I knew some years ago. That may or may not tie in with the more acerbic "Add Venom, Shake Well, an odd-metered parable that "seeks to convey senses of despondency, grief and contempt through unpredictable development. Adding tartness to the mix are Pietro (soprano), Gisbert, Holober and trombonist Pete McGuinness.
Anita Brown may have been lurking under the radar until now, but she has definitely made her presence known with 27 East. Move over, Maria Schneider... there's a new runner in the race, and she's closing ground fast.
Track Listing: Wake Up!; The Lighthouse; Alexander?s Lullaby Waltz; Shifting Tides of Montauk; The Touch of You; Add Venom, Shake Well; 27 East (67:06).
Personnel: Anita Brown, leader, vocals; Jon Owens, Evan Barker, Scott Harrell, Greg Gisbert, Nick Marchione, trumpet; Dave Pietro, Todd Bashore, Tom Christensen, Jason Rigby, Ed Xiques, reeds; Mark Patterson, Pete McGuinness, Bruce Eidem (1, 2, 6), Mike Christianson (3-5, 7), Jeff Nelson, trombone; Theresa MacDonnell (2, 3, 7), French horn; Mike Holober, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; Tim Horner, Lee Finkelstein (4), drums