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The Toronto Jazz Orchestra: 20

Dan McClenaghan By

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The Toronto Jazz Orchestra, aka TJO, was created to perform music by the major jazz composers, like Miles Davis and his Miles Ahead (Columbia Records, 1958), the trumpeter's collaboration with Gil Evans, for one. With 20, the group celebrates the composition and arranging skills of its artistic director, Josh Grossman.

With a twenty year history—hence the disc's title—TJO proves itself a top notch big band here, beginning with the Aaron Copland-esque "Georgie and Rose," with its sweeping backdrop and rich harmonies driven with a propulsive Latin flavor. Solos—one after another, all highly inspired—slip in and out of the big, bold arrangement. Everybody shines brightly.

"Brad's Prudence," from "Dear Prudence," of the Beatles songbook, stands out as the set's only non-Grossman original. A nod to pianist Brad Mehldau's rendition of the tune from the album Largo (Warner Brothers, 2002), showcases the band's bright sounds soaring over a sludgy, ground-bound rhythm. Trombonist Christian Overton solos with muscularity that slips into suppleness, then back to brassy power again.

The set's centerpiece, the four movement "4N," celebrates Canadian clarinetist/educator, and one of Josh Grossman's personal inspirations, Phil Nimmons. The twenty minute suite serves as an extended highlight, with its expansive Maria Schneider-like ensemble sound, punctuated by terrific soling, most notably from clarinetist Paul Metcalfe on ""4PN, Mvt. 2: Under a Treeful."

Grossman closes the show, as he opened it ("Georgie and Rose" is about his children), in a family way. "The Blob" explores, in part, the downside of parenting—the fear and feelings of inadequacy concerning the taking on of the task, but also the "plunge ahead hard, like you know what you're doing" momentum needed to do it right, in spite of inevitable doubts. A hard-driving, uplifting wrap-up to a fine big band set.

Track Listing: Georgie and Rose; Brad's Prudence; 4 PN Mvt. I: The Land of 2 and 4;; 4 PN Mvt. II: Under a Treeful; 4 PN Mvt. III: Birdsong; 4 PN Mvt. IV: Flat 10 Strikes Again; Reflection; The Blob.

Personnel: Josh Grossman: artistic director, conductor; Chris Roberts: soprano sax, alto sax, flute; Jake Koffman: alto sax, flute; Paul Metcalfe: tenor sax, clarinet; Chris Hunsburger: tenor sax, clarinet; Shirantha Beddage: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Steve Dyte: lead trumpet; James Rhodes: trumpet; Alexander Brown: trumpet; John Pittman trumpet; Christian Overton: lead trombone; Pat Blanchard: trombone; Mark Grieve: trombone; Sylvain Bédard: bass trombone; Todd Elsliger: guitar; Carissa Neufeld: piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer; Mark Godfrey: acoustic bass, electric bass; Ben Ball: drums; Luis Orbegoso: percussion.

Title: 20 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: TJO

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