Dani Felber Big Band / Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra / Jazz Composer's Workshop Orchestra
Dani Felber Big Band
More Than Just Friends
Before hazarding any premature comment about the merits of this new album by Swiss bandleader Dani Felber, it must be noted at the outset that one of Felber's good friends is former Count Basie stalwart Frank Foster whose even-handed assessment is that "this is the very best big band in Europe." Clearly one man's opinion, but considering who that man is, one that's certainly worth taking to heart. Felber has undeniably molded his ensemble in the Basie image with seven of the album's dozen numbers written by Foster, the others by Felber. Even though it's generally ill-advised to foretell anyone's response, it's pretty safe to assume that if you're a Basie fan you're going to love this.
Felber comes out swinging with Foster's buoyant "Four Five Six," keeps the groove going with his own "More Than Just Friends" (based on the standard "Just Friends"), ushers in the blues with Foster's Basie-like "Easin' It," travels south of the border to unwrap his "Pink Bossa" and lets loose the horses on Foster's dynamic "Discommotion" (wonderful unison trumpet soli) before closing the album's first half with the sensuous ballad "Sina's Dream," written for Felber's daughter. The second section, which opens as the first with Foster's engaging blues "Who, Me?," includes two of his best-known compositions, "Blues in Hoss' Flat" (on which trumpeter Rich Laughlin delivers a fairly good impression of a "hoss") and the easygoing finale, "Shiny Stockings," along with "Ready Now You Are G.B.," Felber's seductive "My First Solo" (which showcases the actual first solo by Felber's 11 year old son, Joel, on flute) and the fast-moving "Jorg on the Road."
The ensemble, solid throughout, is enhanced by some delicious Basie-style piano courtesy of Gotz Arens, mellow rhythm guitar a la Freddie Green by Bernd Hess, an enterprising rhythm section (Dave Mader, bass; Ole Seimetz, drums) and sharp, straight-ahead solos by a number of Felber's capable sidemen including Arens, Hess, Laughlin, trumpeters Andrea Tofanelli and Gabriel Keogh, altos Dave Feusi and Jonas Knecht, tenors Pius Baumgartner and Phil Stockli, baritone Michael Lutzeier (late of Al Porcino's German-based big band) and trombonists Andreas Tschopp and Rene Mosele. Felber solos twice, on flugelhorn, on "Pink Bossa" and "Sina's Dream."
To echo Foster's sentiments, this is a splendid album by one of Europe's most accomplished big bands. If there's a caveat, it lies in the less than 52-minute playing time. On the other hand, scarcely a moment is squandered.
Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra
What Did You Dream?
Dan Gailey has been known for years as a superb composer / arranger / saxophonist / educator but never before as leader of his own orchestra, an oversight he deftly corrects on What Did You Dream? All the music on this congenial studio date is Gailey's, and it is contemporary without being opaque, melodically and harmonically impressive without extravagance, sophisticated without losing sight of the imperative to swing.
Gailey's hand-picked orchestra, comprised of world-class musicians from Kansas City and beyond, puts its collective shoulder to the wheel and breathes invigorating life into each of his resourceful charts, which range from blues ("In a Big Way") to ballad ("Early Light") to tone poem ("Point No Point"), ending with an earnest tribute to one of Gailey's seminal influences, the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker ("11th Hour"). The pensive title selection stems from Gailey's having been chosen by the International Association of Jazz Educators' to receive the 1996 Gil Evans Fellowship for composition, and was introduced at the 1997 IAJE Conference in Chicago.