All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Jamie Begian Big Band: Big Fat Grin

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Who wants to take on the task of turning 17 individual musicians into a jazz big band? Very few people would attempt it, and fewer would succeed. Guitarist Jamie Begian did it in 1998 and the Jamie Begian Big Band now celebrates its 12th year with the release of its second album, Big Fat Grin. Begian not only leads the band, he wrote and arranged the tunes, and produced the album. That's a lot of responsibility, but the success of this album will surely make it feel worthwhile.

"Funky Coffee" opens the album, its initial phrases bearing a passing resemblance to the theme tune from the original film version of Casino Royale (1967). It certainly is funky, but in a refined, smooth fashion that makes the most of the horn section's silky ensemble playing, and the bass and drums of Dave Ambrosio and Peter Retzlaff. As with all of the tunes, Begian builds in space for two or three solos and the players—Marc McDonald on alto, Tom Goehring on trumpet and Deborah Weisz on trombone, in this case—always use that space to excellent effect.

Two contrasting tunes show the range of Begian's writing and arranging talents. "Halay" displays elements of East European folk, hints of Duke Ellington and even the humor of Raymond Scott's idiosyncratic compositions. Dimitri Moderbacher's clarinet takes a central role on this driving and swinging tune. The lovely "Suddenly, Summer Falls" is a more serious piece; its beautiful melody is laidback and controlled but still emotive, and once again the solos—from Begian, Moderbacher on flute, and flugelhornist Jason Colby—are crucial to the tune's success.

On some occasions—the mid-section of "Funky Coffee" and the first half of "Patience"—there is a tendency for the higher-register instruments to overwhelm the bass sounds, and this leads to a loss of the tunes' rhythmic roots; probably a result of the mix rather than the arrangement. Elsewhere, the instrumental combination works perfectly, creating a balance of sounds even on Begian's most ambitious compositions, such as the four-part "Tayloration."

Big Fat Grin shows just how a talented big band can create affecting music. As a player, Begian is a key member of the group but he stays predominantly in the background. His strength as a leader lies not only in his writing and arranging but in his ability to identify and use his band members' strengths to their greatest effect-. It's a rare ability, and one which helps to make Big Fat Grin such a successful example of a big band at work.

Track Listing: Funky Coffee; Halay; Patience; Suddenly, Summer Falls; Tayloration 1; Tayloration 2; Tayloration 3; Tayloration 4; Big Fat Grin.

Personnel: John O'Gallagher: alto sax, soprano sax; Marc McDonald: alto sax, clarinet; Ben Kono: tenor sax, oboe, clarinet, soprano sax; Dimitri Moderbacher: tenor sax, flute, clarinet, soprano sax; Dan Goble: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Tom Goehring: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Scott: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marty Bound: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jason Colby: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Bush: trombone; Deborah Weisz: trombone; Paul Olenick: trombone; Max Siegel: bass trombone; Dave Ambrosio: bass; Bruce Arnold: guitar; Peter Retzlaff: drums; Jamie Begian: guitar.

Title: Big Fat Grin | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Innova Recordings


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Peaks of Light CD/LP/Track Review
Peaks of Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 18, 2018
Read In Denmark I Was Born CD/LP/Track Review
In Denmark I Was Born
by Gareth Thompson
Published: March 18, 2018
Read Dreams of Belonging CD/LP/Track Review
Dreams of Belonging
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 18, 2018
Read In Copenhagen - Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983 CD/LP/Track Review
In Copenhagen - Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 18, 2018
Read A Year Ago Today CD/LP/Track Review
A Year Ago Today
by Doug Collette
Published: March 18, 2018
Read Ravensburg CD/LP/Track Review
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Harmony of Difference" CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Genesis, Mystery And Magic" CD/LP/Track Review Genesis, Mystery And Magic
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 6, 2017
Read "Fractured Pop" CD/LP/Track Review Fractured Pop
by Jerome Wilson
Published: April 20, 2017
Read "Liberation Narratives" CD/LP/Track Review Liberation Narratives
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 31, 2017
Read "Slægt" CD/LP/Track Review Slægt
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 24, 2017
Read "The Study of Touch" CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017