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Nova Jazz Orchestra: In a Lucid Moment (2006)

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Nova Jazz Orchestra: In a Lucid Moment How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

This is the fifth album by the Nova Jazz Orchestra, at least three of which have been recorded live at O'Gara's nightclub in St. Paul, Minnesota. If anyone doubts that this one is live, he or she need only listen to Ted Godbout's wimpy piano. Not a knock on Godbout, of course, but in-studio pianos are, generally speaking, more (pardon the pun) upright. Everyone else sounds respectable, especially for an in-concert performance, and the audience is uncommonly well-behaved and unobtrusive.

Nova decided to record its sessions at O'Gara's from February to April of '06, and the group must have been in exemplary form on April 25, as every number on the album, we're informed, was taken from that concert. Nine selections were written by members of the orchestra, the others by close friends Dan Cavanaugh ("Split Rock ) and Sue Leigh ("The Quiet One ). And there are no excuses, as after a three-month warmup, Nova presumably couldn't play them any better than this.

As it turns out, no excuses are needed. Even though the balance isn't always sharp, the orchestra hangs together well, with no evident lapses in solidarity or awareness, while the various soloists (including Godbout), if not awe-inspiring, are nonetheless capable and earnest. There are cordial showpieces for flugel John Ahern (his "Swekamambossanova ), tenor Paul Peterson (his "While You Were Out ) and soprano Bob Byers ("The Quiet One ), and space elsewhere for that trio, Godbout, trumpeter Todd Matheson, tenor Bill Burton, trombonists Larry McCabe and Michael Burton, bass trombonist John Tranter, baritone Mike Krikava and drummer Dave Perry to have their say.

Whoever wrote the notes wasn't overly detail-oriented, as the soloists on "Lucid Moment (written by Byers and based on Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner's "On a Clear Day ) are listed as Byers, Perry and Matheson, whereas the only solos are by Byers and Godbout. Also, it's curious that there's no audience reaction or applause after Godbout's shuffling "Arcturis, although the orchestra—and especially his piano—sound as "live as elsewhere.

And when's the last time you came across an album dedicated to a lead trumpeter? Lucid Moment bows deeply to Ahern, the orchestra's "lead trumpeter, composer, arranger, recording guru and number one Nova guy. That's gotta help heal those aching chops. It's a well-deserved accolade for supervising another admirable enterprise by the well-rounded Nova Jazz Orchestra.

Track Listing: In a Lucid Moment; JT; Edge; Un Otro Mundo; Swekamambossanova; While You Were Out; Split Rock; The Quiet One; Scurry On; Arcturis; A Fine Day for It (69:16).

Personnel: John Ahern: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Martin, Todd Matheson, Andrew Shellenbarger, Dan Frankowski (5): trumpet; Bob Byers: alto, soprano sax, flute; Scott Johnson: alto sax, flute; Bill Burton: tenor, soprano sax, flute; Paul Peterson: tenor sax, flute; Mike Krikava: baritone sax; Mike Larson, Michael Burton, Larry McCabe: trombone; Craig Lawless (1-3,5,8,9), John Tranter (2,4,6,7,10,11): bass trombone; Ted Godbout: piano; Pete Karstad: bass; Dave Perry: drums.

Record Label: NJO

Style: Big Band


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