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Big Band Report

In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question

By Published: April 2, 2013
Henzi's other songs are "Bathyal," which, he writes, "represents the ocean from a depth of 1000—4000 meters"; "Promenade," a "hidden door into a mystic room full of colorful print cylinders," and "Teebeutelregen," a look at Bern's old town, where "it is raining tea bags and a horse carriage speeds through the alley." While the listener may or may not apprehend those images, the music has a meaning of its own that is clearly worth considering. Even though the orchestra is most often in the forefront, the SJO's soloists are first-rate, starting with trombonist Stefan Schlegel and soprano Adrian Pflugshaupt ("Losing Lucidity") and continuing with trumpeter Johannes Walter
Johannes Walter
b.1979
trumpet
, bassist Lorenz Beyeler and tenor Jurg Bucher ("A Chaser"), alto Reto Suhner, flugel Daniel Woodtli, baritone Marc Schodler—and Roland Wager on udu! ("Teebeutelregen"), bassists Antonio Schiavano (electric) and Beyeler (acoustic), tenor Till Grunewald and trombonist Andreas Tschopp ("Figment"), Suhner on alto clarinet ("Bathyal"), trumpeter Thomas Knuchel, trombonist Rene Mosele, pianist Henzi and guitarist Nikolay Karageorgiev ("Promenade").

When all is said and done, Lucidity is music for the open-minded, not necessarily for those who hold fast to tradition, especially as it applies to big-band jazz. Henzi is a perceptive composer, but what he has in mind may not mirror everyone's idea of what a big band should embody. Fans of Basie, Herman, Rich or even Ellington / Kenton should take that for what it's worth.

The Ian McDougall 12Tet
Live
Self Published
2013

Put a dozen immoderately talented jazz musicians in one room, as trombonist Ian McDougall has done on Live, and you almost can't help but produce an album that crackles with high-powered enthusiasm as it swings easily from one emphatic measure to the next. Oh, to have been there to see and hear this excellent concert, presented in March 2012 at the Cellar Club in Vancouver, BC. Luckily, it was recorded, so those who weren't there can at least eavesdrop and appreciate what twelve perceptive, single-minded men are able to accomplish when the stars align and the time is right.

It's clear from the outset that this is to be a concert like few others, as tenors Ross Taggart and Phil Dwyer lay down the gauntlet and lock horns in earnest on McDougall's free and easy "Tales of Cotton" (inspired, McDougall says, by Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
), bringing to mind memories of such implacable dueling tenors as Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
1925 - 1974
sax, tenor
and Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
1923 - 1990
sax, tenor
, Ammons and Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
, Gordon and Wardell Gray
Wardell Gray
Wardell Gray
1921 - 1955
sax, tenor
, Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
1928 - 2008
sax, tenor
and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Eddie
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
1922 - 1986
sax, tenor
. Later on, the altos have their say, with Campbell Ryga and Chris Startup dueling on "Silver Woody," McDougall's inventive union of Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
b.1928
piano
's "Sister Sadie with his impressions of the Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
Herds. McDougall also wrote "Desolation Blues," "Red Sky" and "Dry with a Twist," while Don Thompson
Don Thompson
Don Thompson
b.1940
multi-instrumentalist
contributed the shimmering "LEDCC" (Lower Etobicoke Daycare Center) and Dwyer penned the jazz waltz "Speak Softly" for his wife and daughter. Rounding out the program are Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
1924 - 1972
trumpet
's "Blue Bossa" (taken at a slower-than-usual tempo) and the '30s standard "Home," which McDougall inserted because it was one of his father's favorite songs (and which swings here as never before).

One feature of McDougall's ensemble that stands out is that each of its members is not only an unwavering team player but an exemplary soloist as well. Besides the tenors and altos already named, they include bassist Ken Lister
Ken Lister
Ken Lister
b.1962
bass, acoustic
and guitarist Oliver Gannon ("Desolation Blues"), trumpeter Brad Turner
Brad Turner
Brad Turner

trumpet
and pianist Ron Johnston ("LEDCC"), Turner and Gannon ("Blue Bossa"), Gannon, Dwyer and Lister ("Speak Softly"), Johnston and Ryga ("Red Sky"). McDougall solos twice, with Taggart on "Home," with Johnston and Dwyer on the well-grooved "Dry with a Twist." Not to single anyone out, but Johnston and Ryga are especially impressive on the prismatic "Red Sky," Ryga and Startup likewise on "Silver Woody." And even though drummer Craig Scott
Craig Scott
b.1956
bass, acoustic
doesn't solo, he handles more than his share of the heavy lifting as unflappable skipper of the group's tight-knit rhythm section.

McDougall, who logged twenty years as lead trombonist with Rob McConnell
Rob McConnell
Rob McConnell
1935 - 2010
trombone
's peerless (and greatly missed) Boss Brass, has stayed busy since returning home to British Columbia, teaching, composing and performing in the Vancouver area. During his years in the trenches, McDougall has developed a keen eye for synergy and talent, a knack that is readily apparent on Live, one of the more persuasive concert recordings in recent memory.

Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra
Bloom
Nineteen / Eight Records
2013


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