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Big Band Caravan

Jack Cortner Big Band / Peter Hand Big Band / Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

By Published: September 2, 2009
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
Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan
b.1971
piano
("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
Allora Records
2009

Dave Rivello, who teaches at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, says he owes a debt to Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
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 music—melodic, multi-layered, dynamically persuasive, irrepressibly modern—with 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

Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
, Manny Albam
Manny Albam
Manny Albam
1922 - 2001
arranger
, Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
b.1930
trumpet
, Bob Belden
Bob Belden
Bob Belden
b.1956
arranger
and Jim McNeely
Jim McNeely
Jim McNeely
b.1949
composer/conductor
, as well as others he never met but greatly admired—Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
, Igor Stravinsky, Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
, 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

Matt Pivec

saxophone
and drummer Ted Poor
Ted Poor
Ted Poor

drums
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

Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
than it is to Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
, Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
, Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
or Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
.

Tom Bancroft Orchestro Interrupto
The Ballad of Linda & Crawford
Interrupto Music
2009

As is true of many contemporary big bands, Scottish drummer Tom Bancroft

Tom Bancroft
Tom Bancroft
b.1967
drums
'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.

Every number save the last—"First Steps Last Steps"—was composed for a tour of the UK with pianist Geri Allen

Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
, one of Bancroft's musical heroines. The tour unfolded as planned, but Allen was unable to record with the orchestra—pardon, orchestro—and is replaced by Chick Lyall, who, in Bancroft's opinion, "does a great job" sitting in for her. If that motion needs a second, consider it done. Lyall comps with assurance and brandishes his impressive chops on "Toxic Beaming Happiness," "Ornate Bessie" and "L&C's Theme." The orchestral thread is severed in midstream by a 49-second "Bass Solo," played by the hiply named Mischa Kool.

Besides Lyall, the soloists on "Bessie" (a synthesis of Ornette Coleman and Count Basie) are Bancroft and alto Laura MacDonald, on the spectral "Theme" screaming baritone John Telfer. Tenor Phil Bancroft

Phil Bancroft
Phil Bancroft
b.1967
seizes the moment on the rhythmic "Stanley & Marjorie's Jig" (dedicated to the late Scottish musician / composer Martyn Bennett), trumpeter Colin Steele and trombonist Joost Buis on "The Ballad of L&C," guitarist Kevin Mackenzie on "Beat the Boss Part 1," MacDonald and Buis on "First Steps Last Steps."

Be advised that Bancroft's essays are tone poems, not arranged in a customary big-band framework, and while they do require one's earnest awareness, are never tedious or uninspired. The Orchestro Interrupto is admirable, as are the over-all sound and balance. Recommended to those who prefer their big-band jazz with a splash of profundity.

Warren Smith Composers Workshop Ensemble
Old News, Borrowed Blues
Engine Records
2009

When a review opens with a comment about sound quality, one can sense immediately that something may be amiss, as indeed it is on Old News, Borrowed Blues by the New York-based Composers Workshop Ensemble. The problem here lies not so much with the music, which is by and large agreeable, but with the acoustics, which are deficient at best. The ensemble passages are especially muddy; one might even say opaque, which is a shame, as leader Warren I Smith

Warren I Smith
Warren I Smith
b.1934
percussion
, who presumably wrote and / or arranged the various selections, has some engaging things to say, and the Workshop boasts a number of first-class sidemen (and one woman, baritone saxophonist Claire Daly
Claire Daly
Claire Daly

sax, baritone
).

Soloists aren't named, but that has to be Smith or Lloyd Haber on vibes, probably Cecil Bridgewater

Cecil Bridgewater
Cecil Bridgewater
b.1942
trumpet
on trumpet / flugelhorn, and undoubtedly Craig Rivers on soprano sax, Joe Daley on euphonium, Douglas Yates on alto, Andrew Lamb
Andrew Lamb
Andrew Lamb
b.1958
sax, tenor
on tenor (featured on the driving "One More Lick for Harold Vick
Harold Vick
Harold Vick
b.1936
"). There are two expanded works, the three-part "Rivers State Suite," inspired by a trip to Nigeria in the 1980s, and the four-part "Free Forms," chosen from a set of ten "early experiments in free improvisation." These are perhaps the least successful of the Workshop's endeavors; regrettably, they account for more than one-third of the album's hour-plus running time. The "Rivers Suite" (enhanced by African percussion) and sensuous "Hungarian Gypsy Song," on the other hand, are charming, as is the emphatic opener, in spite of its inauspicious name—"Lock the Toilet Door."

Old News Borrowed Blues comes in a plain brown wrapper, according to which it was recorded and engineered at Ghetto Sound Lab in Brooklyn, NY, which seems somehow appropriate. Not to be too hard on anyone, but the Workshop's best efforts on this session are invariably short-changed by the bargain-basement sound.


Tracks and Personnel

Sound Check

Tracks: Strike Up the Band; Speak Low; Sometime Ago; Cantaloupe Island; Sound Check; Yesterdays; Caravan; Cinema Paradiso Love Theme; a la Mode; You and the Night and the Music; It's All Right with Me.

Personnel: Jack Cortner: leader, arranger; Bob Millikan, Tony Kadleck (2, 5-8, 11), Danny Cahn (2, 5-8, 11), Bud Burridge, Frank Greene (1, 3, 4, 9, 10), Dave Gale (1, 3, 4, 9, 10): trumpet; Lawrence Feldman, Jerry Dodgion, Jon Gordon (4, 9, 11): alto sax; Dave Tofani, Dennis Anderson (2, 5-8, 11), Bob Malach (1, 3, 4, 9, 10): tenor sax; Kenny Berger: baritone sax; Jim Pugh (1-5, 10, 11), Keith O'Quinn (6-8), Tony Studd, Birch Johnson: trombone; Paul Faulise: bass trombone; Jeff Mironov (7, 9-11), Jay Berliner (2, 5, 11): guitar; Bill Mays: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; John Riley: drums. Special guest artist—Marvin Stamm, trumpet, flugelhorn.

The Wizard of Jazz

Tracks: Come Rain or Come Shine; Ill Wind; This Time the Dream's on Me; The Man That Got Away; Let's Fall in Love; Stormy Weather; Blue Jug / Harold's Blues; Over the Rainbow.

Personnel: Peter Hand: leader, arranger, guitar; Cecil Bridgewater, Brian Pareschi, Valery Ponomarev, Jim Rotondi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Houston Person, Kenny Berger, Don Braden, Ralph Lalama, Brad Leali, Mike Migliore: reeds; Sam Burtis, John Mosca, Jim Pugh: trombone; Richard Wyands: piano; Harvie S: bass; Steve Johns: drums.

Collective Creativity

Tracks: Fanfare for Cloud Gate; West End Blues / Weatherbird; Collective Creativity Suite; Diaspora; The Creation of Evolution (Part 1); One Thousand Questions, One Answer; The Creation of Evolution (Part 2); Seraphim; An Afternoon with Mr. Bowie (Part 1); An Afternoon with Mr. Bowie (Part 2); The Creation of Evolution (Part 3); Vice Versa; Goin' to Chicago.

Personnel: Orbert Davis: composer, arranger, conductor, trumpet, piccolo trumpet; Mark Olen, David Spencer, David Young: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tracy Kirk, Henry Salgado: trombone; Arthur Lisner, Robert Lustrea (11): bass trombone; Nicole Mitchell, Stephen Eisen: flute, alto flute; Amy Barwan, Erin Horan: oboe; Peter Brusen: bassoon, contra bassoon; Dileep Gangolli, Jerry Dimuzio: clarinet; Richard Hogarth: bass clarinet; Beth Mazur-Johnson, Alice Render, Michael Buckwalter: French horn; Charlie Schuchat, Dan Anderson (11): tuba; Ryan Cohan: piano; Stewart Miller: bass; Ernie Adams: drums; Sarah Allen: tympani; Ruben Alvarez: congas; Mike Avery, Alejo Poveda, Ernie Adams (11), Suzanne Osman (11): percussion; Sylvia de la Cerna, Bernardo Arias, Elizabeth Brathwaite, Talia Pavia, Carl Johnston, Karen Nelson, Debora Ponko: violin 1; Phyllis Sanders, Carol Kalvonjian, Barbara Farley, Kristine Semanic, Irene Quirmbach, Jennifer Dunn: violin 2; Scott Dowd, Loretta Gillespie, Lynn LaPlante, Karen Dickleman: viola; Ann Hendrickson-Griffin, Ellen Frolichstein, Andrew Snow, Richard Yeo: cello; John Floeter, Kathryn Nettleman, Jacque Harper: string bass; Kara Bershad: harp. Special guest artists—Ari Brown: tenor sax; Ed Wilkerson: tenor sax, clarinet, didgeridoo; Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo; Mwata Bowden: baritone sax, bass clarinet, didgeridoo; Terisa Griffin: vocal (12).

Facing the Mirror

Tracks: One by One by One; (of) Time and Time Past; Stealing Space; Dancing in Circles; Sometime; Beyond the Fall; The Path of Innocence; Chorale.

Personnel: Dave Rivello: composer, arranger, conductor; Brian Shaw: trumpet; Mike Kaupa, Eli Asher: trumpet, flugelhorn; Matt Pivec: soprano sax, flute; Jose Encarnacion: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Dean Keller: clarinet, bass clarinet; Phil Ostrander, Dan Pierce: trombone; Jeff Meyer: tuba; Red Wierenga: piano; Malcolm Kirby: bass; Ted Poor: drums, percussion.

The Ballad of Linda & Crawford

Tracks: Toxic Beaming Happiness; Ornate Bessie; Linda & Crawford's Theme; Stanley & Marjorie's Jig; Bass Solo; The Ballad of Linda & Crawford; Beat the Boss Part 1; First Steps Last Steps.

Personnel: Tom Bancroft: drums, piano (6), composer, arranger, music director; Colin Steele, Claude Deppa, Eddie Severn: trumpet; Laura MacDonald: alto sax; Phil Bancroft: tenor, soprano sax; John Telfer: baritone sax; Joost Buis; Patrick Charbonnier, Lorna McDonald: trombone; Kevin MacKenzie: guitar; Chick Lyall: piano; Mischa Kool: bass.

Old News, Borrowed Blues

Tracks: Lock the Toilet Door; Rivers State Suite; The Hungarian Gypsy Song; One More Lick for Harold Vick; Free Forms 1-4.

Personnel: Warren Smith: leader, drums, vibraphone, percussion; John Carlton, Cecil Bridgewater: trumpet; Joe Daley: euphonium; Jack Jeffers: bass trombone; Craig Rivers: soprano sax; Douglas Yates: soprano sax; James Stewart: tenor sax; Claire Daly: baritone sax; Andrew Lamb (2): tenor sax soloist; Jeribu Shahid: bass violin; Yoham "Chiqui" Ortiz: guitar; Elusegun Sangofemi, Jose Abreu: African percussion; Lloyd Haber: drums, vibraphone, percussion.



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