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The Brooklyn Repertory Ensemble: Pragmatic Optimism (2007)

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The Brooklyn Repertory Ensemble: Pragmatic Optimism How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Directed by drummer/composer/arranger and educator Wade Barnes, The Brooklyn Repertory Ensemble has been hard at work with their own recordings as well as spreading the word across the United States with concerts and clinics. The seventeen-member group consists of residents of Brooklyn, New York, and most of these musicians have deep roots insofar as experience and commitment are concerned. If Pragmatic Optimism is any indication of their talents, then there should be a bright future for this organization.

This album does begin in a deadening way with two vocals from Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch, as she first asks the musical questions posed by Bob Dylan in the opening verses of "Blowin' in the Wind," and then a Martin Luther King tribute composed by Roland Alexander and Arnold Jenkins ("King"). Over the course of these first thirteen minutes, the ensemble largely accompanies a soulful Cumberbatch.

However, beyond this point I was won over by the arrangements and the ensemble, which features a "bottom" coloration emphasizing the sound of mellophone, euphonium, tuba, bass trombone and baritone sax. It all becomes evident on the playing of "The Power of Feeling" and "The Power of Thought," featuring smartly played solos by Dale Turk on bass trombone, James Zollar on trumpet and John Nam, piano. Other soloists include metallic playing by guitarist Yoshiki Miura and sparkling vibes work from the often free jazzer Bill Ware.

Cumberbatch returns for a version of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," presenting the Mark Murphy lyrics. This time she is much more of a jazz singer, and during the long vocal break there are effective solos from Tom Olin on soprano sax and Hayes Greenfield on alto sax. There is one more vocal on "Body and Soul, with the closing "Thoughts of Love" featuring Zollar's trumpet.


Track Listing: Blowin' In the Wind; King; Passive Volition; The Power of Feeling; The Power of Thought; Stolen Moments; Big Little Sis; Little Big Sis; Body and Soul; Thoughts Of Love.

Personnel: Wade Barnes: drums, director; Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch: vocals; James Zollar: trumpet; Vincent Chancey: french horn; Mark Taylor: mellophone; Kiane Zawadi: euphonium; Dale Turk: bass trombone; Ralph Hamperian: tuba; McDonald Payne: clarinet; Tom Olin: soprano saxophone; Hayes Greenfield: alto saxophone; Mario Escalera: tenor saxophone; Don Slatoff: baritone saxophone; William Ware, III: vibraphone; Yoshiki Miura: guitar; John Nam: piano; Ratzo Harris: bass.

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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