David Berger Jazz Orchestra / Sheryl Bailey / UNC–Greensboro
The charts, six by Tomaro and two by John Wilson, fit Bailey's brisk improvisations like the proverbial glove, and she and the orchestra swing as freely as tree limbs in a windstorm. While Bailey claims the lion's share of the blowing space (no problem there), Tomaro weighs in with an engaging soprano solo on J.J. Johnson's "Lament," trombonist Jay Ashby offers a brief but persuasive statement on Remler's "East to Wes," tenor Eric DeFade and guest vibraphonist Hendrik Meurkens add their singular voices to Bailey's soulful "Unified Field," and trumpeter James Moore fashions an ardent solo on the standard "You and the Night and the Music."
Besides "East to Wes," Remler wrote the tantalizing "Mocha Spice" and lively, Latin-based "Carenia." Completing the program are Bailey's pensive "New Promise" and the percussive burner "Miekkaniemi," co-written with Tomaro who earns special plaudits for arranging the charming soli for guitar, trombone and soprano sax in "East to Wes," adapted from a transcription of Remler's solo on the original recording. The album is the brainchild of Marty Ashby, executive producer of MCG Jazz, who had the talent and resources to make it happen. Besides producing, Ashby adds a second guitar on "East to Wes," "Mocha Spice" and "Carenia" while brother Jay, the trombone soloist on "East to Wes," doubles as percussionist on "Miekkaniemi," "Mocha Spice" and "Carenia."
Although the world was deprived of who knows how much memorable music when Emily Remler succumbed to a heart attack, Bailey and the Three Rivers Orchestra have gone the extra mile to keep her memory alive, and A New Promise is an homage that surely would have warmed her heart and brought a smile to her face.
UNCG Jazz Ensemble
The Music of Joel Frahm and Seamus Blake
Gone are the days when college-level jazz ensembles leaned for the most part on the Great American Songbook for their material. That's true even of lesser-known Jazz Studies programs such as that housed at the University of North CarolinaGreensboro, which shows no reluctance to come to grips with the labyrinthine music of saxophonists Joel Frahm and Seamus Blake, a couple of unbending modernists whose writing is not for the faint of heart.
Besides composing half of the album's 10 selections (Blake wrote the others), Frahm doubles as guest soloist on seven, unsheathing a broad and fiery arsenal of free-wheeling post-bop broadsides that are seldom less than enticing. The UNCG ensemble, meticulously groomed by director Steve Haines, is on top of its game, wavering only slightly on Frahm's frenzied "A Whole New You"but there aren't many bands that could easily subdue that unruly beast. When Frahm's not around, the blowing space is shared admirably by tenor Michael Kinchen and keyboardist Antonio Truyols ("Hoi Polloi"), trumpeter Steve Rozema and tenor Keenan McKenzie ("Face the Question"), Truyols, Rozema and trombonist Laurence Evans ("Four Track Mind"). Kinchen arranged "Hoi Polloi," McKenzie Frahm's Latin charmer, "Jobimiola" (on which McKenzie, Kinchen and Frahm unravel radiant solos), Truyols Blake's quirky "Four Track Mind." The other charts (two apiece) are by Haines and UNCG alums Mark Shoun and Jason Miller.
As these are original compositions, the listener's response to them must rest in part on his or her fondness for modernistic jazz in the Mingus / Bley / Russell mode as opposed to more conventional big-band sketches by such masters as Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Potts, Marty Paich and others. While none of the Frahm / Blake themes lingers long in the memory, they can and do swing when they must, and there is enough variety among them to engage and sustain one's interest. The 72 minute playing time is plentiful, the over-all sound and balance first-rate. In sum, a sharp and colorful session, marking another step forward for the enterprising UNCG Jazz Ensemble.
Stockholm Jazz Orchestra
Ikaros is the third album by the splendid Stockholm Jazz Orchestra devoted exclusively to the music of composer and pianist Goran Strandberg, which simply means, to paraphrase an oft-used adage, the SJO knows a good thing when it hears it. Strandberg is an astute and inventive writer, and the 10-part Ikaros suite, which consumes the entire album, is never less than engaging. While the music is thematic, and reveals an explicit Swedish veneer, the essential precepts of big-band jazz are ever-present, as is the SJO's propensity to bring them to the fore.