Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra: The Good News! (2010)
In a world full of negative media, the Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra only wants to talk about The Good News!. The good news is that Chicago- based composer/conductor Nowlin does not hesitate when referencing the great big bands of the past; however, this attitude does not keep him or his soloists from exploring new territory as well.
While some tracks feature stride piano introductions à la early Count Basie or saxophone ensemble playing much like the Glenn Miller, Nowlin makes sure to add his creative voice throughout. This comes to fruition on "The Deeper You Go," where Nowlin offers a variety of interpretations of rhythm within the same swing feel. He takes this rhythmic complexity further as he explores different drum grooves on "Three Up, Three Down," and at several points during this track, the main drum groove is being played on the rim of the snare drum, providing a feel reminiscent of the very early stages of jazz. Because much of this album features simpler harmonies, the spots of harmonic adventure serve as a welcome surprise. These moments appear on the final piano chord of "R and B," and also on the title track, during the sendoff into the tenor saxophone solo.
Nowlin's choice of soloists also has a major impact on the overall product. Some of the clarinet work on "Town Hall Blues" does not match up with the very high standards that have been set by the other improvisers and sticks out as a result. Other than those few spots, however, the soloing on this album at worst is extremely solid and at best adds to Nowlin's overall compositional goals in a way written parts cannot. The album's closer provides the standout solo performance of a saxophone battle between tenor man Dustin Laurenzi and altoist Joshua J. Johnson on an arrangement of "Sleep."
Armed with an extensive knowledge of the past, the Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra comfortably moves into the future at its own pace, and with Nowlin's keen arranging, they do it in style. Look forward to more good news coming from the Matt Nowlin Jazz Orchestra.
Track Listing: Just Friends; R and B; Town Hall Blues; The Deeper You Go; The Good News; Three Up, Three Down; Sparrow's Silhouette; Sleep.
Personnel: Matt Nowlin: composer and conductor; Alex McNeilly: alto saxophone and clarinet; Josh Johnson: alto saxophone; Adam Turman: alto saxophone; Dustin Laurenzi: tenor saxophone; Ben Sampson: trumpet; Jesse Van Dam: trumpet; Kristin Cazenave: trumpet: Jake Handelman: trombone; Dan Kolan: trombone; Andy Toews: trombone; Joel Tucker: rhythm guitar; David Linard: piano; Coleman Cook: bass; Anson Hohne: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced