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M13 is a well-groomed thirteen-piece contemporary ensemble from Chicago whose uncredited leader (and composer / arranger) is saxophonist Aaron McEvers, an Eastman School grad who moved westward from his native Detroit. 1 Human, Too Human is the group's first recording after a decade of "rehearsals" at Quencher's nightclub in the Windy City and elsewhere. As is true of a number of younger big-band composers, McEvers likes to infuse his writing with special effects, but once one gets past them the music as a rule is quite decorous and accessible. For one example, check out "Through," a lyrical, even-tempered pastiche that showcases the ensemble's talented pianist, Paul Mutzabaugh. Or Wayne Shorter's emphatic "Footprints," the only number not written by McEvers, which nevertheless shines brightly in his colorful chart (on which McEvers solos smartly on soprano sax with unflagging support from drummer Tom Hipskind and the rhythm section).
Hipskind's drums introduce the enchanting "Nick's Tune," whose featured soloist isn't Nick but baritone Mark Hiebert. As on some other numbers, McEvers' use of reverb (producing an echo effect) is somewhat overdone and intrusive; the listener will simply have to accept it and move on, as the music itself generally rises above that inauspicious tendency. "Nick's Tune" precedes the assertive "March to High Cromlech," a stalwart exercise for brass and drums whose earnest solos are by trumpeter Scott Anderson and tenor Todd Boyce (who could benefit from more fluency and less screeching and growling). Trombonist Steve Duncan is out front on the peaceful ballad "Crayons," alto Corbin Andrick and trumpeter Brian Schwab on "The Cubist," whose measured tempo provides a durable stage for some impressive work by the ensemble. The finale, "Red Wine," is a quite brief (forty-one second) coda.
Moving from end to beginning, the album opens with "The Juggernaut," whose leisurely yet insistent pulse amplifies perceptive solos by bass trumpeter Ryan Schultz and guitarist Chris Siebold. The title selection, which employs more special effects to set the mood, is a slow-moving theme that enfolds ardent statements by Siebold and trumpeter BJ Cord. As noted, a modern big band in the best sense of the word, one whose collective talent and dedication are clearly evident on 1 Human, Too Human.
Track Listing: The Juggernaut; 1 Human, Too Human; Through; Footprints; Nick’s Tune; March to High Cromlech; Crayons; The Cubist; Red Wine.
Personnel: Tracks 1, 3, 6, 7 — B.J. Levy: trumpet; B.J. Cord: trumpet; Scott Anderson: trumpet; Ryan Shultz: bass trumpet; Aaron McEvers, Dan Nicholson, Todd Boyce, Nick Moran: saxophones; Steve Duncan: trombone; Chris Siebold: guitar; Paul Mutzabaugh: keyboard; Tim Fox: bass; Rick Vitek: drums. Tracks 2, 4, 5, 8, 9 — B.J. Cord: trumpet; Brian Schwab: trumpet; Scott Anderson: trumpet; Ryan Shultz: bass trumpet; Aaron McEvers, Corbin Andrick, Todd Boyce, Mark Hiebert: saxophones; Steve Duncan: trombone; Chris Siebold: guitar; Paul Mutzabaugh: keyboard; Tim Fox: bass; Tom Hipskind: drums.