Over the past three-and-a-half decades, trumpeter Tim Hagans has worked with the most accomplished big bands in the world. Time spent with Stan Kenton
, Thad Jones
, Maria Schneider
and Bob Mintzer
has often placed him at the epicenter of large group creativity. These associations, along with many others, have helped him flesh out his own unique compositional style. The Avatar Session
is a showcase for this writing, which encompasses everything from lush, hazy ballads and bebop tributes to funky, riff based anthems of post-modern design.
The Norbotten Big Bandwith whom Hagans has collaborated since 1996 brilliantly brings his creations to life. When this group tours Europe they often invite guests along for the ride and Hagans often writes music specifically for the honored artist. In bringing trumpeter Randy Brecker
, drummer Peter Erskine
, saxophonist George Garzone
, saxophonist Dave Liebman
and bassist Rufus Reid
into the mix here, Hagans augments an already impressive group, allowing the music to take shape around the artists who inspired these works.
While the character of the music and the featured soloists change from track to track, Erskine's drumming is a key factor on many of the performances. On "Buckeyes," he manages to fill the gaps between the angular/broken riffs and provide some supportive swing, while still retaining some creative energy for soloing. Garzone and Hagans are featured prominently here and the wild, overlapping exchanges between all three men brings some organized chaos into the mix.
Hagans and Brecker heat things up on "Boo," as they team up or trade short little licks and solo bursts which are separated by a boogaloo/funk riff from the band. "Box of Cannoli" is full of different musical moods, including muted brass coloring, a focus on the piano triowith some fine work from pianist Daniel Tillingand some aggressive drum soloing. Hagans' harmonies seem to hang in the air on "Here With Me"an expressive tune featuring Liebman on soprano saxophone.
"Palt Seanuts," a bop-inspired feast with trumpet and saxophone leading the charge, decompresses with some deep chords and angular bass licks before the parade of solos takes off. Erskine's solo comes last, and he appropriately ends his spot with a quote from Dizzy Gillespie
's "Salt Peanuts." "Rufus at Gilly's" gives Reid a platform to demonstrate his technique and creativity. Some searching bass work creates a spooky atmosphere, and Reid's use of ringing harmonics, richly bent notes and sliding sounds make the music all the more intriguing.
With The Avatar Sessions, Hagans manages to synthesize his lifelong big band experiences to create something new, showcasing the A-list jazz guests on an album that also highlight the impressive talents of the Norbotten Big Band.
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).