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The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming Big

Jack Bowers By

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What's that you say? A New York-based Jazz Orchestra as admirable as this one whose recording debut was delayed for more than twenty-five years? There ought to be a law! Well, in this case it wasn't the law but a lawyer who sidetracked the orchestra's debut for so many years. His name is Brett Gold, and he set aside his trombone and dream of leading a band while in college, following instead his parents' wish that he pursue a more practical (and financially rewarding) career as an attorney.

Even as Gold flourished in the field of international and corporate tax law, however, the dream never died, and he decided at last to assemble an orchestra to perform a number of the songs he had written and arranged while looking forward to the "someday" in which his long-held aspiration might become a reality. The result is Dreaming Big, a bright and always engaging mosaic of prismatic colors, harmonies and rhythms that marks the arrival—better late than never—of a bold new voice on the big-band scene.

As for the music itself, Gold takes his cue from Ellington, Strayhorn, Gil Evans, Bill Holman, Don Ellis, Thelonious Monk and such film composers as Bernard Herrmann, David Raksin and Ennio Morricone, having studied composing and arranging with Mike Abene, Jim McNeely and Mike Holober at the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. The opener, "Pumpkinhead, P.I." is one of two twelve-tone compositions (the other is "Infinity Row"). There's a stylish mambo ("That Latin Tinge"), a slow waltz ("Stella's") and a faster one ("Lullaby for Lily"), songs inspired by Thelonious (the playful "Monkfish," featuring Frank Basile's rumbling baritone sax), those Hollywood composers ("Theme from an Unfinished Film") and even Shakespeare ("Exit, Pursued by a Bear," a slow blues based on a stage direction from The Winter's Tale). The ambitious eleven-minute finale, written with Gold's Moroccan sister-in-law in mind, depicts in musical terms the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.

The orchestra is razor-sharp, with impressive solos along the way by Basile; tenors Charles Pillow, Tim Ries and Dave Riekenberg; trumpeters Scott Wendholt and Jon Owens, soprano Mark Vinci, alto Matt Hong, trombonist Bruce Eidem, pianist Ted Kooshian, guitarist Sebastian Noelle, bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Scott Neumann. As debuts go, meticulously planned and superbly executed. Let's hope we don't have to wait twenty-five years for an encore.

Track Listing: Pumpkinhead, P.I.; Stella’s Waltz; Dream Moon; Al-Andalus; Lullaby for Lilly; Exit, Pursued by a Bear (Slow Drag Blues); Infinity Row; Theme from an Unfinished Film; That Latin Tinge; Monkfish; Nakba.

Personnel: Brett Gold: composer, arranger, leader; Jon Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; James de la Garza: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dylan Schwab: trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Wendholt: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mark Vinci: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Matt Hong: alto sax, clarinet, flute; Dave Riekenberg: tenor sax, clarinet; Tim Ries: tenor, soprano sax, flute, clarinet (3, 5-7, 11); Charles Pillow: tenor, soprano sax, clarinet (1, 2, 4, 8-10); Frank Basile: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Bruce Eidem: trombone; John Allred: trombone; Bob Suttmann: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Ted Kooshian: piano; Sebastian Noelle: guitar (3, 5, 6, 7); Phil Palombi: bass; Scott Neumann: drums.

Title: Dreaming Big | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: GoldFox Records

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