Jack Cortner Big Band / Peter Hand Big Band / Chicago Jazz Philharmonic
One criticism often leveled at such enterprises is that they sacrifice swing on the altar of self-importance. Thankfully, that is not the case here. Davis is first and foremost a jazz musician, and he never loses sight of the music's cardinal rule, that it must swing. And so it does, in spite of the presence of a twenty-five piece string section, which Davis manages expertly while keeping it at arm's length and allowing brass, reeds and rhythm to roar when the occasion demands. Besides Davis, there are admirable solos by all members of the AACM and, from the CJP, trombonist Tracy Kirk ("Weatherbird"), pianist Ryan Cohan ("Seraphim") and clarinetist Dileep Gangoli ("Mr. Bowie," whose two parts are based on the berceuse from Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird).
While this is big-band jazz that doesn't conform easily to any unswerving premise, it can be nonetheless rewarding to those who care to listen closely and appreciate its luminous colors and unpresuming subtleties. As to the phrases that would best describe the CJP's latest endeavor, Collective Creativity sums it up about as well as any.
Dave Rivello Ensemble
Facing the Mirror
Dave Rivello, who teaches at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, says he owes a debt to Bob Brookmeyer that is "beyond words." On Facing the Mirror, his debut CD, Rivello begins to repay Brookmeyer's generosity. This is, in other words, Brookmeyer's kind of musicmelodic, multi-layered, dynamically persuasive, irrepressibly modernwith the ensemble conspicuously in the foreground, laying down a colorful sonic carpet for the various soloists, much as Brookmeyer has done with any number of big bands. So close are the two men that Brookmeyer, who first employed Rivello in 1996 as a copyist and later instructed him in composing and arranging, has written the liner notes for Facing the Mirror. "Dave came to me with strong harmonic sense," Brookmeyer writes, "a need to pay heed to linear issues and the devotion to stick with it through the ups and downs of this business. [He] is someone I believe belongs in the next generation of large Jazz ensemble composers . . ."
In moving forward, Rivello has taken a cue from several colleagues who helped pave the way, well-known craftsmen such as Bill Holman, Manny Albam, Kenny Wheeler, Bob Belden and Jim McNeely, as well as others he never met but greatly admiredGil Evans, Igor Stravinsky, Thad Jones, Gyorgy Ligeti. Their influence can be felt here, even as Rivello assimilates their concepts and deftly weaves them into patterns of his own making. Each of the eight selections was written and arranged by Rivello and ably performed by his twelve-piece ensemble, a group comprised of Eastman students and local professionals that has been a working unit for sixteen years.
Even though, as noted, the ensemble is predominant, a number of engaging solos are sprinkled throughout. Trumpeter Mike Kaupa is showcased on "Sometime" and (muted) "(of) Time and Time Past," pianist Red Wierenga on the rhythmic "Dancing in Circles," tenor Jose Encarnacion on the esoteric "Stealing Space." Wierenga and trumpeter Eli Asher share the blowing space on the expansive curtain-raiser, "One by One by One," Wierenga and Encarnacion on the undulating "Path of Innocence," soprano Matt Pivec and drummer Ted Poor on the sinewy "Beyond the Fall." There are no solos on the tasteful finale, simply named "Chorale." As Brookmeyer correctly notes, ..."the perfect way to end this experience."
In sum, Facing the Mirror is an auspicious preface for Rivello, one that explicitly affirms Brookmeyer's faith in him. Fans of more conventional big-band fare should be advised, however, that this is substantially closer in spirit to Brookmeyer, McNeely, Evans and such contemporaries as Maria Schneider than it is to Woody Herman, Count Basie, Stan Kenton or Buddy Rich.
Tom Bancroft Orchestro Interrupto
The Ballad of Linda & Crawford
As is true of many contemporary big bands, Scottish drummer Tom Bancroft's Orchestro Interrupto evades customary themes and motifs and focuses instead on music that recounts a more personal narrative, in this case The Ballad of Linda & Crawford. Half of the album's eight selections describe in musical terms the odyssey of Linda, Crawford and their children, Stanley and Marjorie. According to Bancroft, these are people he knows well, albeit by other names. Why he should be writing about them is unclear but presumably cathartic.