The New Jazz Composers Octet: Walkin' The Line (2003)
Rather than going with the common straight-ahead formula of head-solos-head, the New Jazz Composers Octet prefers ensemble counterpoint in which agreed-upon changes add a sense of the exotic. Shifting harmonies and juxtaposed meters combine with the artists’ natural rhythmic swing and reverence for tonal purity. David Weiss’ title track, for example, opens with the kinds of dissonance that would suitably accompany a film’s more dramatic scenes. Then, between fierce, bebop-derived solos, the octet continues to push their ensemble sound forward as one tight unit. With the trumpet on top, tenors and trombones in the middle, and baritone sax with bass holding up a big bottom, the band forges ahead en masse. Standout solo work from Craig Handy and Xavier Davis provide the session with that extra quality we look for in jazz.
This is the octet’s second album. From New York, they’ve been together now for five years. Unlike popular music, their melodies aren’t the kind you sing to yourself in the shower. Each piece is an adventure. The composers and arrangers build each one gradually with sounds being placed together intentionally. Eight instrumental voices sound like sixteen. Acoustic timbres cause the program to retain a natural sound. As long as spirits can work successfully together like this in complete accord, jazz will continue to grow beyond the usual format.