's "There Shall Be No Night," from the great Blanton/Webster Band box set (Bluebird, 1990), has it. Partly it's the recording technology of the time, sufficiently imperfect that your brain suspects it's hearing things that aren't there; partly it's the art of the arranger (Billy Strayhorn
, of course, in the Ellington example), providing things that are there. It's one of the most transcendent sounds in jazz.
Woodwind multi-instrumentalist Frank Macchia's new saxophone sextet plus drums produces that sound on a couple of its slower- paced tracks, and on this brightly recorded session, it doesn't have anything to do with 1940s recording technology. That is one among many reasons to admire this record.
Another is Macchia's magisterial (and Grammy-winning) arrangements. Macchia has of late been arranging jazz chestnuts for the symphony orchestra, most recently on Landscapes (Cacophony, 2007). His gift for eliciting new harmonic details from familiar material is apparent in many numbers here, particularly the all-too-familiar "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Down By The Riverside."
Macchia is, furthermore, a fine tenor saxophonist with a decidedly R&B bent, an asset that makes more sense in this honking setting than with the symphony orchestras of earlier records: his unaccompanied, bluesy wail at the beginning of "Chariot" is just impeccable.
The leader's solos are generally great, but he does not hog the limelight. Among other standouts, Eric Marienthal
, Duke Ellington, "Down By The Riverside" and Dixieland classicsdiehard traditionalists would remain nonplussed by a Michael Jackson tune, the reconfiguration of "That's A-Plenty" as a samba, or the smart funkification of Benny Goodman
Track Listing: Air Mail Special; Down By the Riverside; My One and Only Love; Working Day and Night; Java;
Caravan; Shortening Bread; Bluesalicious!; Creole Love Song; Work Song; Swing Low, Sweet
Chariot; That's A-Plenty.
Personnel: Frank Macchia: tenor and baritone saxophones, flute, alto flute, clarinet, contrabass clarinet;
Eric Marienthal: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Sal Lozano: alto saxophone, piccolo,
clarinet; Bob Sheppard: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Gene Cipriano: baritone saxophone,
clarinet, flute; Jay Mason: bass saxophone, bass clarinet; Peter Erskine: drums, percussion.