Tim Hagans: The Avatar Session: The Music of Tim Hagans (2010)

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Tim Hagans: The Avatar Session: The Music of Tim Hagans
He's been its musical director since 1996, but since 2005 trumpeter Tim Hagans' work with the Swedish Norbotten Big Band has run in a parallel stream to his more intimate, small ensemble work on the German Pirouet label, most recently on Alone Together (2008). As good as Worth the Wait (Fuzzy Music, 2008) was, The Avatar Sessions: The Music of Tim Hagans—focusing exclusively, as it does, on the trumpeter's music—is an even stronger follow-up.



Once again, Hagan collaborates with veteran drummer Peter Erskine

Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
, but this time around the team recruits a number of well-known guests that not only give the disc some additional star power, but provide Hagans with some stylistic specificity for the writing. With another veteran, Rufus Reid
Rufus Reid
Rufus Reid
b.1944
bass, acoustic
, filling the bass chair, Hagans also has a powerhouse of a rhythm section, capable of tearing it up on high energy charts like "Palt Seanuts" (a nod to the legendary Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
), but equally adept at delivering the balladic "Here With Me" with a combination of textural grace and unfailing dynamism.



Hagans cut his teeth with Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
(where he first met Erskine) and Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
, so while there's no shortage of big band swagger to reference his time with those icons, Hagans' modernistic penchant remains intact. The music may swing hard—and it does so mightily on the opening "Buckeyes"—but the harmonies are more sophisticated, the arrangements more detailed, and even the tempo subject to shift, as it does towards the end of George Garzone
George Garzone
George Garzone
b.1950
sax, tenor
's barnstorming solo, leading into a solo of equal fire and invention from Hagans. Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
's soprano solo on "Here With Me," on the other hand, finds the usually expressionistic saxophonist in a more restrained mood, though the innate lyricism featured on this lushly orchestrated track—picking up, perhaps, where Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
left off and might have gone, were he alive today—is no surprise to any who have followed his long and varied career.



Liebman Group guitarist Vic Juris

Vic Juris
Vic Juris
b.1953
guitar
guests on the funkier "Boo," and while he doesn't solo—that's left for some spirited interplay between Hagans and guest trumpeter Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
—his gritty, groove-centric accompaniment, once again proves him to be the perfect choice for any session. Hagans provides some of Norbotten's players a chance in the spotlight as well, in particular on the up-tempo "Box of Cannoli," where Hagans' knotty chart—a combination of bright horns and warm woodwinds, all bolstered by Erskine's combination of delicate cymbal work and thundering toms—nearly defies the imagination, but not absolutely articulate execution by the entire ensemble.



With a resurgence of larger ensembles on the American scene over the past couple years, it's easy to forget that, in Europe, big bands have never gone away. With a combination of intellectually deep yet visceral charts, high level soloing and, at its core, a large ensemble capable of anything he can throw at it, The Avatar Sessions finds Hagans fashioning a big band sound for the 21st century—reverent of what's come before, but with a wide open eye on what's to come.

Track Listing: Buckeyes; Boo; Box of Cannoli; Here With Me; Palt Seanuts; Rufus at Gilly's; Song for Mirka.

Personnel: Tim Hagans: solo trumpet, conductor; George Garzone: tenor saxophone (1); Randy Brecker: trumpet (2); Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone (4); Håkon Broström: saxophones and woodwinds; Jan Thelin: saxophones and woodwinds; Mats Garberg: saxophones and woodwinds; Karl-Martin Almqvist: saxophones and woodwinds; Per Moberg: saxophones and woodwinds; Bo Strandberg: trumpet; Magnus Ekholm: trumpet; Dan Johansson: trumpet; Tapio Maunuvaara: trumpet; Peter Dahlgren: trombone; Magnus Puls: trombone; Ola Nordqvist: trombone; Björn Hängsel: trombone; Daniel Tilling: piano, Fender Rhodes (2); Vic Juris: guitar (2); Rufus Reid: bass; Peter Erskine: drums, tambourine (2, 6).

Record Label: Fuzzy Music

Style: Big Band


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