David White Jazz Orchestra: Flashpoint (2011)
With a faculty that includes John Abercrombie, Eric Alexander, Scott Colley, Jon Faddis, Jon Gordon and Kenny Washington, the Purchase College Jazz Studies Program is a leading talent pool for artists. No one alumnus epitomizes that capacity better than trombonist, composer and arranger David White on his debut, Flashpoint. Though he's still relatively unknown outside the New York circuit, White has played with the likes of Slide Hampton, Delfeayo Marsalis and Kenny Burrell. White's Jazz Orchestra deftly combines the traditions of big band music with open improvisation and inventive arrangements, with eight of his seventeen-piece orchestra's members taking memorable solos throughout the collection.
Duke Ellington's up-tempo "David Danced Before the Lord with All His Might" opens the set with a retrospective treatment in its more homogenous big band style. The tribute may be a bit of misdirection, as White's own compositions and arrangements follow a distinctly modern approach. However, the two musicians share an understanding of composition and writing for large ensembles. The slow tempo "Eyes Closed" highlights White's ability to reference but not duplicate traditional intonations. The piece includes brilliant solos from pianist Nick Consol and saxophonist Sam Dillon, while the orchestra provides a restrained backdrop. The overall effect is that of realizing satisfying sense of completion. Similarly, "First Light" is solidly built around solos from tenor saxophonist Sam Taylor and White, before the orchestra builds out to a moderate but dramatic tempo.
The potential of the full orchestra is on display in equal measure to the solo sections. The rhythmic drive is appropriately bluesy on "Love in a Blue Time," which features solos from White, Consol and alto saxophonist Andrew Gould. "Secrets" holds some personal significance to White, and the orchestra plays with a sensitivity that reflects the composer's inspiration. "I Have a Bad Feeling About This," with Volker Goetze's flugelhorn solo, "I'll See You in Court," and "Mister Shepherd's Blues"where trombonist Melissa Gardiner, trumpeter Miki Hirose and Dillon share quality solo timeare more in line with full out swing.
With the exception of the Ellington opener, White composed and arranged all the material on Flashpoint, taking full advantage of instrumental shading by varying the content and using great imagination in executing his vision. White clearly knows his jazz history and strikes a perfect balance, by incorporating his musical influences while defining his own progressive style. The musicians are polished and first rate, playing with nuance or great passion where appropriate. Flashpoint would be an outstanding recording in any composer's portfolio, but is all the more impressive as a first outing, with White leaving much to look forward to.
Track Listing: David Danced Before the Lord With All His Might; Eyes Closed; Love in a Blue Time; First Light; Secrets;I Have a Bad Feeling About This; Pandora; I'll See You in Court; First Lullaby; Mister Shepherd's Blues.
Personnel: David White: composer, arranger, conductor, trombone; Andrew Gould: alto saxophone; Omar Daniels: alto saxophone; Sam Taylor: tenor saxophone; Sam Dillon: tenor saxophone; Stephen Plekan: baritone saxophone; Miki Hirose: trumpet; Volker Goetze: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alicia Rau: trumpet; Michael Irwin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Melissa Gardiner: trombone; Rick Parker: trombone; Barry Cooper: trombone; Robert Statel: bass trombone; Nick Consol: piano; Doug Drewes: bass; Paul Francis: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz