John Vanore & Abstract Truth's Contagious Words has the qualities of either a small big-band date or a big small-band date, depending on the perspective. There are twelve musicians listed on every track, and five more who show up for a few tracks each. That certainly has the instrumental mix for a full big band sound, but Vanore, who plays trumpet and composed most of the tracks on the album, uses the full power of the orchestra judiciously.
The writing is complicated enough to sound modern and highly crafted, but remains accessible enough to retain fans of easier-on-the-ears music. The melodies range from quirky to straightforward to abstract, and almost everywhere in between, with rich orchestration throughout. "Dreams" possesses a slow jam feel, first featuring guitarist Greg Kettinger, then Vanore, using the greater horn section only sporadically in support of the soloists. "Recess," on the other hand, features a more fully realized orchestral statement, morphing into the album's most abstract track, with well-regulated discord closing it out.
As a soloist, Vanore plays his horn open with a bright, searching tone. Kettinger adds some really fine fretwork throughout. Tenorist Bob Howell opens "Restless" with a keening free improvisation, before the full band loudly bursts in, returning to take a fine, straight-ahead turn. With this many musicians involved there isn't enough space to give a shout-out to all of them, but everyone involved is really on top of this music.
It's nice to see the leader of a larger ensemble leave so much space for his band mates to work out. Although he's the leader, Vanore is only listed as a soloist on four tracks, taking care to credit all of the soloists individually in the album notes. In an egalitarian touch, he also ensures that the band lays out, for the most part, during solos, allowing the individuals a little limelight.
Contagious Words is a strong example of what a thoroughly modern large jazz ensemble can accomplish: great music with fascinating arrangements and first-rate individual performances. There should be more orchestras like this one.
Track Listing: Envy; Substructure; You Go To My Head; Restless; Dreams; Neopolis;
Personnel: John Vanore: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Mee: alto and soprano sax,
flute; Bob Howell: tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute; Joe Cataldo:
trumpet, flugelhorn; Sean McAnally: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tony
DeSantis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Pusey: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kevin
Rodgers: trumpet, flugelhorn; George Barnett: French horn; Fred Scott:
trombone; Larrry Toft: trombone; Greg Kettinger: guitar; Craig Thomas:
acoustic and electric bass; Dan Monaghan: drums; Ron Thomas: piano;
Heather Fortune: flute; Jim Daniels: bass trombone.
Enjoy Three Days on the Beach with Snarky Puppy, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, Lettuce, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Lila Downs, Michael McDonald Acoustic Quartet, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Flor de Toloache and more—February 14-16, 2020 at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami, FL.
The winner receives a 3-day pass for two. Excludes travel or lodging.
Acclaimed by the New York Times as one of the “Top 10 Definitive Moments of the Decade in Jazz Music,” GroundUP goes beyond the typical festival experience, breaking down the barriers between audience and artists...
We sent a confirmation message to . Look for it, then click the link to activate your account. If you don’t see the email in your inbox, check your spam, bulk or promotions folder.
Thanks for joining the All About Jazz community!
Find All About Jazz articles, news, musician pages, and more!