Any time a big band in this country marks its tenth anniversary (or even its first), it’s a cause for celebration which is exactly what the Empire Jazz Orchestra did last October, taping much of the music on its third album during a gala decade concert at its home base, Schenectady (NY) Community College.
As is its custom, the EJO spans eras and canvasses styles from swing to bop, standard to contemporary with historic charts by Don Redman, Dizzy Gillespie / Gil Fuller, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus and Bill Holman reinforcing cutting-edge works by Frank Zappa, Daniel Barry, Ed Palermo and Maria Schneider. While the listener will have to decide for him / herself if that’s a good idea, there’s seldom a dull moment as the EJO repeatedly switches gears and moves from one genre to another.
Must keep the audience alert and on its toes too, as there’s no way to anticipate what the orchestra may do next, with Redman’s “Chant of the Weed” followed by Daniel Barry’s “Baby Weezer,” Mingus’ salute to Lester Young, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” by Schneider’s “Gumba Blue” and a trio of Zappa’s quirky brainchildren, “Toads of the Short Forest” and “Who Are the Brain Police? / Holiday in Berlin,” smartly arranged by Palermo.
The EJO chooses one number from the American Songbook, and it’s a beaut, Johnny Burke / Jimmy Van Heusen’s rhapsodic “Like Someone in Love,” charmingly scored by the EJO’s Jim Corigliano. That precedes the album’s lone vocal, by Colleen Pratt on Ellington’s “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” and the crowd-pleasing finale, Holman’s bold and breathtaking “Malaga.”
The opener, Dizzy’s mercurial “Things to Come,” would challenge even the most seasoned orchestra. The EJO handles it well, in spite of uneven sound which erases any doubt that this is a concert recording. Redman’s four-square “Chant of the Weed” carries the band back to the swing era before Barry’s elaborate “Baby Weezer” dictates a more contemporary course. Corigliano (alto sax, clarinet) is showcased on “Weed,” pianist Cliff Brucker on Strayhorn’s smooth “Cashmere Cutie,” tenor Kevin Barcomb on “Porkpie Hat,” guitarist Tony Sano on “Brain Police / Berlin.” Barcomb and Corigliano interpose absorbing comments on Evans’ arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s picturesque “Arab Dance,” as do Sano and soprano Keith Pray on “Weezer,” Brucker and tenor Brian Patneaude on “Gumba Blue,” Barcomb and keyboardist Nicholas Lue on “Toads,” Barcomb, Brucker and flugel David Friedman on “Someone in Love,” Patneaude, trombonist Chris Barron and trumpeter Tony Speranza on “Malaga.”
Another splendid performance by the adventurous EJO, which seems at home in any musical domain. Sound is problematic but the orchestra rises above it to produce a pleasurable hour of wide-ranging big-band jazz.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Schenectady Community College, 78 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305 (phone 518–381–1232; e–mail email@example.com; web site, www.sunysccc.edu).
Track Listing: Things to Come; Chant of the Weed; Baby Weezer; Cashmere Cutie; Arab Dance; Goodbye Porkpie
Hat; Gumba Blue; Toads of the Short Forest; Who Are the Brain Police? / Holiday in Berlin; Like
Someone in Love; I
Personnel: William Meckley, music director, conductor; Jim Corigliano, alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute, piccolo;
Lee Russo, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Leo Russo (12), alto sax; Keith Pray (3, 8, 9, 12), alto, soprano
sax; Kevin Barcomb, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Brian Patneaude, tenor, baritone sax, clarinet, flute;
Brett Wery, baritone, tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet, flute; Pete Shaulinski (8, 9), baritone sax; Jon
Bronk, Scott Thompson, Jeff Calistri, David Friedman, Terry Gordon, trumpet, flugelhorn; Tony
Speranza (8, 9, 12), Vito Speranza (8, 9, 12), trumpet; Gary Barrow, Amy Giammattei, Chris Barron,
Ken DeRagon, trombone; Ken Olsen (3, 8, 9), trombone; Dan Cordell, bass trombone; Cliff Brucker,
piano; Nicholas Lue (3, 8, 9), piano, keyboard; Tony Sano, guitar, banjo; Otto Gardner, bass; Bob
Halek, drums; Colleen Pratt, vocals.
Year Released: 2002
| Record Label: EJO
| Style: Big Band
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After going through Rock 'n Roll, the Beatles and Heavy Metal/Hard Rock phases over the next eight or so years, I finally bought my first jazz album; We're All Together Again for the First Time by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan. I was hooked on jazz, and still am 40+ years later.
I moved from England to the USA in 2002, and founded the Brookfield Jazz Society in 2005.
I became editor of the quarterly IAJRC Journalin 2012. The magazine goes to the worldwide membership of the IAJRC (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors) and many major libraries and educational establishments around the world.
As well as being the editor of the IAJRC Journal, I write about jazz and review CDs, vinyl, DVDs and books on jazz.
Login to your All About Jazz member account to submit articles and press releases, upload images, edit musician profiles, add events and business listings, communicate with other members via personal messages, submit inqueries or contribute any content.