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Dick Oatts / Mats Holmquist New York Jazz Orchestra: A Tribute to Herbie +1

Jack Bowers By

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A Tribute to Herbie +1 is Swedish-born composer / arranger Mats Holmquist's third "tribute" album, following well-received salutes to Chick Corea (2003) and Wayne Shorter (2012). For his encomium to pianist / composer Herbie Hancock, Holmquist called upon two of New York City's most respected sidemen, alto saxophonist Dick Oatts and trombonist John Mosca, known and admired, among other things, for their long association with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, to assemble an ad hoc orchestra comprised of some of the city's foremost jazz musicians (and enhanced by three Scandinavian stalwarts; more about them later). Holmquist wrote all the arrangements, and the "+1" refers to his composition "Stevie R."; the other themes were written by Hancock.

Holmquist, an avowed admirer of the late great VJO arranger Bob Brookmeyer, writes in a similar vein, a trait that is most conspicuous on, for example, the introduction to "Chameleon," the tasteful ballad "Jessica" (enhanced by Oatts' shimmering soprano saxophone) or his eccentric "Stevie R." There is one perceptible difference (an observation that is in no way meant to disparage Brookmeyer), which is that Holmquist generally swings harder. In Brookmeyer's defense, it must be noted that the Kansas City native could swing as emphatically as anyone (and did) when that was his purpose; when writing for the VJO, however, his stratagem was more often centered on rich tonal colors and understated dynamics, less often on big-band bravado. Without abandoning Brookmeyer's method, Holmquist has taken it a step further and added a more resonant pulse.

Besides those already mentioned, the Hancock staples herein restored are "Cantaloupe Island," "Dolphin Dance," "Eye of the Hurricane," "Maiden Voyage," "Watermelon Man" and "Toys." Holmquist adds bright and harmonious textures to each one, making it sound as fresh as the day it was written. Although he labels his approach "minimalist," Holmquist makes good use of every section including the first-class rhythm component anchored by drummer John Riley and including guitarist Paul Meyers, pianist Adam Birnbaum and bassist Martin Wind. As for the Scandinavians, they are Swedish tenor Robert Nordmark, Danish trombonist Steen Nikolaj Hansen and Norwegian trumpeter Frank Brodahl. While each of them is essential, only Nordmark solos (on "Chameleon" and "Toys"). Another Swede, trumpeter Jakob Gudmundsson, sits in on "Hurricane."

The other soloists, each one of whom is splendid, are Birnbaum and alto Mark Gross ("Cantaloupe Island"), Meyers and tenor Walt Weiskopf ("Chameleon"), Oatts (soprano on "Dolphin Dance" and "Maiden Voyage," alto on "Hurricane"), Birnbaum ("Dolphin Dance"), trumpeter Joe Magnarelli ("Hurricane," "Stevie R," "Maiden Voyage"), Weiskopf and Riley ("Hurricane," "Toys"), Wind ("Jessica") and baritone Frank Basile ("Watermelon Man"). Add to them Hancock's irrepressible melodies and Holmquist's perceptive charts and you have a delectable banquet of big-band jazz designed to assuage almost anyone's appetite.

Track Listing: Cantaloupe Island; Chameleon; Dolphin Dance; Eye of the Hurricane; Stevie R; Maiden Voyage; Jessica; Watermelon Man; Toys.

Personnel: Dick Oatts: co-leader, alto, soprano sax; Mats Holmquist: co-leader, composer, arranger; Nick Marchione: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Shaw: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet, flugelhorn; Frank Brodahl: trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jakob Gudmundson: trumpet (4); Mark Gross: alto, soprano sax; Walt Weiskopf: tenor sax; Robert Nordmark: tenor sax; Frank Basile: baritone sax; John Mosca: trombone; Larry Farrell: trombone; Steen Nikolaj Hansen: trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone; Paul Meyers: guitar; Adam Birnbaum: piano; Martin Wind: bass; John Riley: drums.

Title: A Tribute to Herbie +1 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: MAMA Records


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