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by Jerome Wilson
When today's top composer-arrangers of large ensemble jazz are discussed, Jim McNeely's name sometimes gets overlooked. He deserves the recognition. He's been a long- time associate of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra and its descendant, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and he's also done a lot of work with several European big bands. It could be that simply his large ensemble writing seldom gets recorded. That makes Barefoot Dances special. It's a powerful suite McNeely wrote for the Frankfurt Radio ...read more
by Jack Bowers
Barefoot Dances and Other Visions is a contemporary seven-part suite written by composer/arranger Jim McNeely in 2014 for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, with whom he has worked since 2008. I tailored my musical visions," he writes, to fit each player in the ensemble, and placed each soloist in a framework both familiar and challenging." Challenging it is, starting with Bob's Here," a well-drawn homage to one of McNeely's mentors, the late composer / valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, written in ...read more
by Nick Catalano
For the better part of a decade I've escorted my jazz class at Pace University on trips to Dizzy's to see the Manhattan School of Music Concert Jazz Band perform. The series was forged by veteran jazz academic Justin DiCioccio whose leadership and programming has prompted a rarely noticed success of Collegiate jazz bands across the country. Since DiCioccio's pioneering efforts schools such as Juilliard, Purchase, and Temple have organized similar groups and also appeared at Dizzy's. ...read more
by Joao Moreira dos Santos
If you own some of the best records of the Stan Getz quartet or you dig the great jazz orchestras, then there is a good chance that you have heard--or better still--felt Jim McNeely's touch before. Either way, if you want to learn more about some of the jazz giants that McNeely has backed on piano, including Getz, Chet Baker, Ted Curson, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and Joe Henderson, as well as the jazz composing and arranging process, then you ...read more
by Jack Bowers
Jim McNeely, Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer have been performing together, whenever time and opportunity allowed, since they first met at the University of Illinois more than thirty years ago but had never recorded as a unit until now. After hearing Boneyard many listeners may be wondering why, as it's about as tasteful and charming as a piano-led trio album can be.
Pianist McNeely, a Chicagoan who is perhaps best known as music director of New York's superb Vanguard Jazz ...read more
by Ken Dryden
Jim McNeely, Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer are three old friends who have played together on occasion over the decades but never recorded as a trio until now. Although Boneyard refers to a creek in Champaign, Ill., it might conjure thoughts of overly familiar standards and jazz compositions as performed on many releases. But this trio avoids common paths by disguising introductions, inserting catchy vamps and chord changes in their offbeat approaches to popular songs. While the ...read more
by David Adler
Pianist Jim McNeely has proven his excellence at large-group writing many times, with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra (later to become the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra), the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra and more. He proves it again with this exceptional CD, his first for the young OmniTone label. Leading a ten-piece ensemble through eight fabulous pieces (four are originals), McNeely creates a sound that is futuristic yet rich with bop reference points. His ...read more