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Pop-Culture Blues

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Michael Treni Big Band: Pop-Culture Blues How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The blues, as it turns out, has many shades; an enduring art form that has been an integral part of the language of jazz since its beginning (if not before). Some aspects of the blues are readily perceived, others not so much. "The common thread," Michael Treni writes in his astute liner notes to Pop-Culture Blues, the fifth album as leader of his own big band, "is that the blues is most frequently found as a 12-bar form made up of Dominant 7th chords with the IV chord used in the 5th measure." If you follow that, you'll most likely understand and appreciate Treni's purpose in writing a ten-part blues-based suite that "presents the development of the blues within the jazz idiom by [using] the changing compositional styles prevalent from the late 1950s to today." If you don't, all you need know is that the music presented here, whatever its origin or label, is sublime.

Treni launches his colorful odyssey with "One for Duke," inspired, of course, by the one and only Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, and continues onward with assorted themes epitomizing the spirit of Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
, Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
, Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
and other Blue Note artists of the '60s, Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
and the "cool school," John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
/ Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
1932 - 1975
arranger
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
/ Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, the Brecker brothers and McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
. The last movement, "Pop-Culture Blues," Treni writes, "incorporates a variety of stylistic elements that is both representative of contemporary practice yet also pays tribute to the past." In his impressive commentary, Treni provides a cogent synopsis of each tune and its relation to the musicians on whose style it is based.

This is the blues in all its multifaceted glory, marvelously performed by twenty-one seasoned musicians to whom the genre seems second nature. What is missing (but by no means missed) are any vocal representations of the blues. There are no twanging guitars or throaty homilies to "muddy the waters" (pun intended), only the invigorating sounds of a world-class big band that knows its way around the blues. Even though this is a suite, its prismatic design ensures that each component can stand securely on its own. And if you're thinking the blues doesn't swing, the closing "Pop-Culture Blues" should drive that notion right out of your head.

Besides writing and arranging the suite, trombonist Treni solos on two numbers ("Minor Blues," "Bluesy Bossa") and earmarks ample space for others including trumpeters Chris Persad, Vinnie Cutro
Vinnie Cutro
b.1953
trumpet
and Freddie Hendrix; tenor / soprano Jerry Bergonzi
Jerry Bergonzi
Jerry Bergonzi
b.1947
saxophone
, alto Sal Spicola, tenors Frank Elmo and Ken Hitchcock, flutists Hitchcock and Craig Yaremko
Craig Yaremko
b.1978
saxophone
, trombonist Bob Ferrel (who plays something called a Buccin trombone on "Mr. Funky Blues"), pianists Charles Blenzig and Jim Ridl
Jim Ridl
Jim Ridl

piano
, bassist Takashi Otsuka and drummer Ron Vincent
Ron Vincent
Ron Vincent
b.1951
drums
. Even if the blues isn't your bag, give "Pop-Culture Blues" a listen. Chances are you'll be surprised and delighted by its diversity.

Track Listing: One for Duke; BQE Blues; Minor Blues; Bluesy Boss; More Than 12 Blues; Summer Blues; Blues in Triplicate; Mr. Funky Blues; Smokin’ Blues; Pop-Culture Blues.

Personnel: Michael Treni: leader, composer, arranger, trombone; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet,flugelhorn; Bill Ash: trumpet, flugelhorn; Vinnie Cutro: trumpet; Nathan Ecklund: trumpet; Chris Persad: trumpet (1-5, 8-10); Sal Spicola: alto sax, flute; Craig Yaremko: alto sax, flute; Jerry Bergonzi: tenor, soprano sax (1, 6, 7, 9); Frank Elmo: tenor sax, alto flute, clarinet; Ken Hitchcock: tenor sax, alto flute, clarinet; Roy Nicolosi: baritone sax, bass clarinet, clarinet; Bob Ferrel: trombone, buccin trombone; Joe Petrizzo: trombone; Philip Jones: bass trombone, tuba; Jim Ridl: piano (1, 6, 7, 9); Charles Blenzig: piano (2-5, 8, 10); Joe LaBelle: guitar (2, 4, 8); Takashi Otsuka:bass; Ron Vincent: drums; Rick Dekovessey: percussion (4, 8).

Record Label: Bell Productions


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