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Jentsch Group Large: Brooklyn Suite

Mark F. Turner By

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A resurgence and appreciation of large ensemble jazz suites is on the rise, as witnessed in the acclaim attending recordings such as the Maria Schneider Orchestra's Grammy nominated Sky Blue(ArtistShare,2007). But while scores for larger collectives are not unusual, it is less common to find them centered on orchestra and guitar.

Enter Brooklyn Suite by guitarist/composer, Chris Jentsch, who helms just such a group, articulating his statement of "what my life sounds like" in Brooklyn, New York. With extensive work as a sideman, previous recordings that include Miami Suite (Blue Schist, 1999)and a number of grants and commissions, Jentsch is more than just a seasoned musician; he's a composer who can convey his ideas on a grand scale.

The nine movement suite is the quintessential framework for a modern big band, with thematic imprints of storytelling linking each piece to the next, like chapters in a book. And this book swings with the grace of Duke Ellington and rocks with the nuance of Frank Zappa.

A reoccurring theme is woven in the recording's fabric through meticulous horns arranged in interchanging sections. "Opening Shards" begins like the dawn—peacefully and introspectively. But like a developing day, "Outside Line," is energized with quickened tempo, swirling horns, and trombone and sax solos. The sculpture of this orchestration comes together as each instrument forms the final work.

Jentsch's charts are fully realized, and so is his performance. The guitar's warm, sustained, slightly overdriven tone adds texture and personality as he weaves in and out of each piece, and soars on "Closing Shards."

The final two pieces, "See You in Bali" and "Our Daily Dread" depart from the suite's main theme but are just as enjoyable. The former is a swinging number with a growling baritone sax solo; the later serves up some natty dread reggae, slowly stewed with wailing horns and a feel-good vibe—a fine conclusion to a satisfying work of music.

Track Listing: Opening Shards; Inside (Interlude); Outside Line; Going to Hail; Follow that Cab; Imagining the Mirror; Closing Shards; See You in Bali; Our Daily Dread.

Personnel: Chris Jentsch: guitar; John Mettam: drums; Jim Whitney: double bass; JC Standford: conductor; John Carlson: trumpet; Laurie Frink: trumpet; Jon Owens: trumpet; Russ Johnson trumpet; Brian Drye: trombone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Jacob Garchik: trombone; Kurtis Pivert: trombone; Ben Kono: reeds; Andy Laster: reeds; John O'Gallagher: reeds; Mike McGinnis; Dan Willis: reeds.

Title: Brooklyn Suite | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Fleur De Son


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