Some things simply don’t compute. For example, big bands from Kentucky, of all places, aren’t supposed to sound nearly as sharp and sophisticated as this — but there’s no denying what one hears, and the aural evidence proves conclusively that the DiMartino / Osland Jazz Orchestra is one hip, pressure–cookin’ Jazz ensemble. This may have something to do with the co–leaders’ impressive resumés as educators; trumpeter Vince DiMartino is a former instructor in the University of Kentucky’s Jazz Studies program, saxophonist Miles Osland its present director, and many of their students (or former students) are in the orchestra. One of those former students, trumpeter Rob Parton, who presides over a fairly respectable big band of his own, flew in from Chicago to take part last June in DOJO’s recording session, trading high–register volleys with DiMartino on “Secret Love” and leading the section on four other numbers. Before dismissing the trumpets, one should mention that every member of the group has studied with DiMartino, and apparently learned his lessons well. Their mentor performs some masterful post–graduate calisthenics (trumpet or flugel) on ten selections while Osland shows his versatility by playing alto and soprano saxophones, piccolo, three flutes (C, alto and bass), leading the reed section on a dozen tracks and soloing strongly on seven (including piccolo and flutes on “Tu y Mi Cancion”). “Cancion” is one of four splendid charts by the orchestra’s talented pianist, Raleigh Dailey. The others are Jim McNeely’s “Real Life,” which opens the album, Charles Mingus’ shuffling “Pussy Cat Dues” and Rodgers and Hart’s lovely ballad, “Spring Is Here.” The orchestra also sinks its collective teeth into flavorsome originals by Bill Armstrong (“Aim for the Heart”), Paul Ferguson (“Niece Piece”), Mike Tomaro (“Tears in Her Eyes”), Geoff Keezer (“Masaman”), Rick Hirsch (“Fantasia on an Ellington Theme”) and Pete Townshend (“I’m Free,” arranged by Hirsch). By the way, if you don’t recognize the Ellington theme, there’s no reason to be upset; it don’t mean a thing . . . DiMartino, as agile as he is resourceful, frames convincing solos on seven of the first eight tracks and three of the last four, wielding his mellow flugelhorn on “Real Life” and “Tears in Her Eyes,” his stratospheric trumpet elsewhere. He and Osland share blowing space on “Niece Piece” and (with Dailey) on “I’m Free.” Other members of the orchestra who step confidently into the spotlight are drummer Jason Tiemann, trombonist David Henderson and alto Hunt Butler (“Fantasia”); Dailey, tenors David Anderson, Mike Tracy and Gordon Towell, trombonist Dave Ashley, trumpeter Steve Bottom, bassist Larry Nelson (“Pussy Cat Dues”) and trumpeter Rick Cook (Barry Manilow’s “I Was a Fool to Let You Go“). Yes, Virginia, there are killer big bands in Kentucky. If you can’t quite swallow that assertion, give DOJO an open–minded test run. It could make a you a believer.
Contact:Sea Breeze Records, 818–242–2093; www.seabreezerecords.com
Track Listing: Real Life; Aim for the Heart; Niece Piece; Spring Is Here; Secret Love; It Might as Well Be Spring; Tears in Her Eyes; A Night in Tunisia; Tu y Mi Cancion; Fantasia on an Ellington Theme; Pussy Cat Dues; Masaman; Trumpet Tune; I Was a Fool (to let you go); I