John Burnett Swing Orchestra / University of Missouri Concert Big Band / Either-Orchestra
Who can say how many future stars may reside in the current Jazz Orchestra, whose engaging soloists include trumpeters Steve Wade and Brian Mantz, saxophonists Dan Kaneyuki, Tristan Johnson, Dane Peterson and Chase Baird (EWI on "Category Four"), trombonists Ermuel Navarro and Adam Liebreich-Johnsen, guitarist Will Brahm, pianist Carlos Ordiano and drummer Randy Drake (whose leadership of the ensemble's impressive rhythm section is outstanding). They are clearly enhancing the enviable tradition established by their renowned predecessors at CSU-LB while taking the listener on a lively and memorable journey.
Abene arranged Sonny Rollins' dynamic "Airegin," McConnell the late Loonis McGlohon's gossamer "Songbird." Completing the session are McGuinness' Latin-inspired "First Flight," Richmond's stylish "Continued Obscurity" and Mulligan's irrepressible "Limelight," written for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. There are no unsound components on this Express, which races easily along the tracks and arrives at its prescribed destination none the worse for wear while beckoning everyone to climb aboard and enjoy a remarkably invigorating ride.
Harmonie Ensemble New York
Sketches of Spain
Exactly 50 years after it was first recorded, Sheffield Lab has released a new version of the classic Miles Davis / Gil Evans collaboration, Sketches of Spain (Columbia), with trumpeter Lew Soloff, a member of the Gil Evans Orchestra for more than 40 years, sitting in for Miles, accompanied by the Harmonie Ensemble New York led by conductor Steve Richman.
Setting aside for a moment the question of why, it should be noted that Soloff and the ensemble approach Evans' charts with warmth and intelligence, scrupulously recreating the music while avoiding as much as possible mere imitation. On the other hand, there's only so much freshness that can be added to arrangements that are so thoroughly framed that even some of the "improvised" passages for solo trumpet are actually written. Soloff follows that script faithfully while at other times endeavoring to distance himself, if only tenuously, from Davis.
Now, as to the question of why, it can be answered in two words: why not? Another of the Davis / Evans masterworks, Porgy & Bess (Columbia, 1958), has been re-recorded by the Chicago Jazz Orchestra with Clark Terry pinch-hitting admirably for Davis; can Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957), be far behind? The point is, insisting on a reason for reissuing an album like Sketches of Spain or any other is akin to asking why an orchestra would record a symphony by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms or any other composer. After all, the parameters have been set, and those works have been performed many times before. But every orchestra / conductor believes something new can be uncovered, and that is assuredly the case here. Whether Soloff and the Harmonie Ensemble New York have succeeded in doing so is up to the listener to consider.
For those who are unfamiliar with the original Sketches (there must be a few), they are comprised of the Adagio from Juaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" for guitar and orchestra, "Will O' the Wisp" from Manuel de Falla's ballet El Amor Brujo and three Evans originals: "The Pan Piper," "Saeta" and "Solea." Playing time (remember, the album began life as a vinyl LP) is around 42 minutes. In closing, it should be noted that Sketches is not a personal favorite, nor is Davis; that should not, however, discourage anyone from seeking out the music (in its original embodiment or this newer version) and making his or her own decision about it.
Tracks and Personnel
Down for Double
Tracks: In the Mood; In a Mellow Tone; Basically Blues; The Heat's On; Down for Double; One O'Clock Jump; Wind Machine; West Side Story; Cottontail; Sing Sing Sing; Out of Nowhere; The Blues.
Personnel: John Burnett: leader; Terry Connell, Mike McGrath, Doug Scharf, Scott Wagstaff: trumpet; Bob Frankich, Justin May: alto sax; Mark Colby, David Kublank, Lennie Roberts (7-9), Frank Catalano (10-12): tenor sax; Bruce Mack: baritone sax; Adam Gross, Russ Phillips, Dana Legg, David Gross (10-12): trombone; Bill Walsh: bass trombone; Frank Caruso, Mark Burnell (7-9), Mike Flack (10-12): piano; Paul Martin: bass; Bill Byan: drums. Special guest artist: Buddy DeFranco (10-12): clarinet.
Tracks: Tee Bag; Vertigo; Bullet Train; Fly Away; Oops; Dee Minor; R Is for Riddle; Plus One; Beirut.