New World Jazz Composers Octet: Breaking News (2011)

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New World Jazz Composers Octet: Breaking News
The New World Jazz Composers Octet thrives on the old school idea of jazz composition as conduit to great jazz performance, and its third album, Breaking News, puts theory to practice from the outset with Matthew Nicholl's "Poco Picasso." The jutting melodic angles and tightly orchestrated front line arrest on their own merits, while also spurring pianist Tim Ray into a well-constructed, swinging improvisation.

The composers featured on Breaking News also avoid the labyrinthine chord progressions and tortuous formal experiments that become ends in themselves in so much contemporary writing. The swirling textures and intricate layers that introduce Richard Lowell's "Warp 7, Now!" evoke one of Star Trek's Captain Kirk's wrong turns, but the harmonically arresting head inspires a driving sax duet between Felipe Salles
Felipe Salles
Felipe Salles

saxophone
and bandleader Daniel Ian Smith
Daniel Ian Smith
Daniel Ian Smith
b.1964
saxophone
. Nicholl's ballad "Wishful Thinking" starts out simply and effectively with an undulating, regretful theme, but it's given room to expand into triumph through a muscular tenor sax solo.

Smith founded the NWJCO in 2000 as a creative outlet for fellow Berklee College of Music faculty members and other local talent around his native Boston. The selection of "Breaking News" for the title track speaks to this ensemble's identity as both composers' workshop and performers' collective. Trumpeter Walter Platt's twelve-bar cooker is straight out of the hard bop aesthetic, with ample room for Smith's baritone. Ted Pease
Ted Pease
Ted Pease
b.1939
drums
's "Trilogy" of composer tributes generates further heat: "Thad's Pad" honors Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
with an infectious miniature big band chart; "Strays" recalls both Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
(and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
) with its rhapsodic lines and opaque harmonies; and "Willis" digs in on modal territory for Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
sax, tenor
.

Solo and ensemble work is consistently assured throughout this disc—for example, Salles' funky tenor sax vamp on "Poco Picasso," Ray voicing à la Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
for sensitive interplay with the muted horns of "Wishful Thinking," and the contrasting trumpets of Platt's shiny upper register on "Poco Picasso" and Ken Cervenka's tarter tone in "Warp 7, Now!" Only on Salles' otherwise hauntingly catchy "Children's Waltz" do soloists merely express technical facility, and the spoken word and bitter horn choirs of Jeff Friedman's "Song Sung Long" sound more like an art-house film background than an emotional main event. The seamless rhythm section of pianist Ray, bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, drummer Mark Walker
Mark Walker
Mark Walker
b.1961
drums
and percussionist Ernesto Diaz-Infante navigates these charts with confidence and flow.

Whatever the "new world" looks like, the NWJCO partners with composers who appreciate melody, texture and groove. That either makes it old-fashioned or perennially modern. Either way, Breaking News manages to stay intriguing, without being inundating.

Track Listing: Poco Picasso; Wishful Thinking; Breaking News; Children's Waltz; Warp 7, Now!; Song Sung Long; Trilogy: Thad's Pad, Strays, Willis.

Personnel: Daniel Ian Smith: saxophones, flute; Ken Cervenka: trumpet, flugelhorn; Walter Platt: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Ray: piano; Keala Kaumeheiwa: acoustic bass; Ernesto Diaz: percussion; Felipe Salles: saxophones, flute; Mark Walker: drums; Catherine Hazel Smith: spoken word.

Record Label: Big and Phat Jazz Productions


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