Dani Felber Big Band / Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra / Jazz Composer's Workshop Orchestra
The solos by pianist Dana Landry and soprano saxophonist John Gunther on "What Did You Dream?" are engaging, as are others throughout the album, starting with trumpeter Vern Sielert, trombonist Paul McKee and tenor Peter Sommer on "Audacity." Guitarist Steve Kovlacheck is out front on "Point No Point," tenor Don Aliquo on "Early Light," Landry, Kovlacheck, bassist Eric Applegate and drummer Jim White on "In a Big Way." As no solo credit is given on "11th Hour," one has to deduce whether that's Gailey himself on tenor. The guess here is, in all likelihood, yes.
After years of having his music performed by others, it's high time Gailey inscribed his name as designer of the finished product, and he couldn't have chosen a more auspicious vehicle for his maiden voyage than What Did You Dream?
Jazz Composer's Workshop Orchestra
This tasteful CD, on which the New York-based Jazz Composer's Workshop Orchestra performs the music of composer / arranger Mike Treni, predates by three years Treni's own album, Turnaround, which was recorded in 2009 and reviewed here in July 2010. Most of the sidemen are the same (tenor Jerry Bergonzi is a notable exception), as are Treni's consistently pleasing charts, with his daughter, Tiffany, added as vocalist on "The Man for Me" and "Try."
The curtain-raiser, "Phoenix Rising," swings merrily along behind robust solos by alto Gerry Niewood and trumpeter Freddie Hendricks (it's always a pleasure to hear the masterful Niewood who died much too soon in an airplane crash in late 2008). The disc's title song, Treni writes, denotes the several detours his life has taken, from trombonist / studio musician to teacher (University of Miami, Berklee School of Music) to successful businessman (a career that lasted twenty years) and, finally, a return to his roots as a composer, arranger, educator and big-band leader. The chart twists and turns, as befits any detour, the brass are bright and assertive, while drummer Jay Dittamo and his section mates undergird congenial solos by pianist Jim Ridl and Scott Reeves on alto flugelhorn.
Trumpeter Hendricks is front and center on the lyrical "Magic of Becoming We," switches to flugelhorn to bolster Tiffany Treni's unassuming vocal on "The Man for Me," and returns to the trumpet to complement Niewood's lissome alto on the ambling "Wigglepuss" (enhanced by more splendid work from drummer Dittamo). Ridl, tenor Rich Reiter and Niewood (on piccolo) share solo honors on the regal "New Millennium," and the orchestra wraps up the session with the charming "Try," on which trombonist Steve Bilefus solos and Tiffany Treni fares somewhat better at a more unhurried tempo. As credits aren't given, one must assume that Mike Treni wrote the lyrics and music.
Those who are familiar with Treni's work on Turnaround should know pretty much what to expect on this buoyant studio session. While the album may be rather hard to find, it's well worth taking a Detour! to seek it out.
Elmhurst College Jazz Band
A mellow piano-trio groove sets the initial tone on 'Round Midnight, recorded by the splendid Elmhurst College Jazz Band in May 2008. The song is Thad Jones' "Second Race," while the trio consists of pianist Brad Macdonald, bassist Andrew Hassel and drummer Keith Brooks. This is a seductive taste of things to come, as the ensemble wends its way through Thelonious Monk's classic, dazzling originals by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Holman, Bob Mintzer, Oliver Nelson and trumpeter John Dorhauer, and the standards "Never Let Me Go," "Who Cares" and "Honeysuckle Rose."
The band backs vocalist Bethany Bredehoft on four numbers, ordinarily beyond the threshold of tolerable, but she's pert and personable on "Never Let Me Go," "Who Cares," "Honeysuckle Rose" and the title track (arranged as a bossa by Elmhurst alum Mike Pinto), so she earns a temperate blessing. That leaves half a dozen instrumentals, every one a winner. Jobim's well-known "Desafinado" precedes Mintzer's emphatic "Swing Out," Nelson's bluesy "Self Help Is Needed" (featuring lead alto Adam Frank) and Dorhauer's bracing "Kamchatka Into Alaska," while Holman's twisting "Zamboni" is in itself akin to a final exam in big-band poise and unison. The ensemble tames it without even breathing hard.