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New World Jazz Composers Octet: Breaking News (2011)

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New World Jazz Composers Octet: Breaking News How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Established in 2000, in the spirit of the Mingus Jazz Workshop, the New World Jazz Composer's Octet sounds more like an orchestra than a group of eight musicians. On its third release, Breaking News, the octet showcases six contemporary composers affiliated with the ensemble.

The music is intricate and well-constructed, with hints of Latin on a few of the tracks, including Matthew Nicholl's "Poco Picasso," which features a complex piano solo from Tim Ray that nevertheless stays within a safe distance of the melody, and a similarly constructed one by trumpeter Walter Platt. The tune's joyous spirit is best reflected in Mark Walker
Mark Walker
Mark Walker
b.1961
drums
's propulsive drums and Felipe Salles
Felipe Salles
Felipe Salles

saxophone
' blistering and bluesy tenor sax.

Salles' own dark-hued and rich-layered "Children's Waltz" features both a big band style, with reed and trumpets trading musical barbs, and the most advanced improvisations on the record by Salles and Ray.

Ray's unique pianism is also heard on the ballad "Wishful Thinking," where his softly flowing notes are backed by the wind instruments, as the individual musicians fade in and out of the spotlight without disturbing the thematic integrity.

Platt's bluesy title track is an homage to the The Jazz Messengers and other hard bop legends; indeed, his rollicking duet with leader Daniel Ian Smith
Daniel Ian Smith
Daniel Ian Smith
b.1964
saxophone
, on baritone saxophone, is reminiscent of a Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
1932 - 2013
trumpet
/ Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams
1930 - 1986
sax, baritone
recording.

Musical conversations between two soloists are a big part of Richard Lowell's "Warp 7, Now!," where Walker exchanges percussive beats with conguero Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Salles battles Smith on tenors.

Smith's young daughter's recitation of the surreal poem "Song Sung Long" is framed by the four horns' ebb and flow, creating a melancholic mood that is enhanced by the alto saxophone's heart-wrenching delivery.

The three-part "Trilogy" suite is dedicated to legendary jazz composers Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
, Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
and Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
sax, tenor
, and channels their spirit in their respective movements: "Thad's Pad" is bop-ish with hints of blues, closing with a short flugelhorn coda; "Strays" is a languid, nocturne-like ballad highlighted by Ray's classically inflected keys; and "Willis" is a modal, Afro-Cuban piece, with Diaz's energetic percussion complementing Smith's hard-driving baritone.

This intriguing albeit not groundbreaking recording by a small ensemble with a big sound is heavier on compositions and arrangements than on improvisation; nevertheless it makes for a delightful and satisfying listen.

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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