This "Small Town Reddy's large ensemblehas created a massive statement that shows just where jazz composition, new music, collective improvisation and individual expression meet. The leader, though a vital and engaging instrumentalist, envisioned this four-part suite as a situation where he would not play his saxophones. What took shape, instead, was a huge structure that revolved around a core of musicians with whom Reddy has been regularly involved. It's a maelstrom of sound in which players disappear into the storm only to emerge as the powerful voices they most certainly are.
These are organic compositions that have a sense of architecture that allows the big picture to be more than the sum of its brilliant parts. "Spacious Skies opens with a drone that builds in intensity as drummer Pheeroan akLaff ushers in a dark processional march with horns. There's some sinewy group playing, and then guitarist Brandon Ross comes sailing out of and above the chaos.
Bassist Dom Richards begins the building process in "God Damn, and is joined by "strange guitar sounds and a mildly propulsive horn phrase. With all that as a base, there's another structure which needs to be built by the ensemble and the music suggests perhaps the kind of storm that comes to destroy a city, maybe a southern American city. Reddy has said that the music can indeed reflect that kind of turmoil and with Charles Burnham on violin implying a kind of melancholy blues, it's clear that possibly more than a god has damnedor not dammeda place.
Reddy's music, though thick with colors, finds ways to let light in. Themes start to make themselves knownhear the vigorous "Fool's March that minimally yet with utmost texture asserts itselfand it's amazing to contemplate just how much music is in each of these sections. Somehow these players start to stand out and it's the talents of such unsung marvels as Burnham, Ross and Mark Taylor (French horn) that move these pieces forward and always bring them home. And even in the closing "Among the Ruins, there is a dark beauty that indicates the presence of an intelligent and thoughtful composer.
Personnel: Rob Reddy: composer and conductor; Oscar Noriega: clarinet and bass clarinet; Steve Elson: flute and soprano saxophone; Cochemea Gastelum: alto saxophone; Tim Otto: soprano and tenor saxophones; Lisa Parrott: soprano and baritone saxophones; John Carlson: trumpet; Bob Scarpulla: trumpet; Mark Taylor: French horn; Lis Rubbard: French horn; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Charles Burnham: violin; Sarah Bernstein: violin; Marlene Rice: viola; Mary Wooten: cello; Dom Richards: double bass; Brandon Ross: acoustic and electric guitars; Jon Margulies: electric guitar; Pheeroan akLaff: drums; Guillermo E. Brown: drums.