Like many other corners in that amorphous room called jazz, big band jazz has grown more abstract and experimental since its heyday in the 1930s. This process is necessary for the creative evolution of the art, but often produces music that is as unlistenable as it is creativeor brilliant. Abstract growth may be considered horizontal evolution, but there is also vertical evolution; evolution that values working within the parameters of the conventionalusing arrangements of ever- increasing intricacy, but not at the expense of that constantly elusive musical commodity, swing.
Drummer Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band take swing seriously and prove it on Eleven. demonstrating their collective understanding of vertical musical evolution on eleven (mostly) contemporary compositions. Pieces by Mike Stern, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker are given breathtaking readings through refined arrangements teeming with compelling solos. Out of these mostly contemporary compositions, Bobby Timmons' canonic "Moanin'" is a stone-cold standout.
Arranged by tenor saxophonist Rob Middleton, who also solos on the piece, Timmons' masterpiece is given a retro introduction before Tom Kennedy's double bass leads into the familiar cotton field call-and-response with the reeds. The chorus features the harmonica of Rob Paparozzi, who can easily hold court with Toots Thielemans or Hendrik Meurkens. The reading is semi-standard, with ensemble interludes that complement Middleton well. All of the solos are superb, and the level of arranging and performance puts Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band well ahead of other contemporary big band offerings.
New Ground; Moanin'; Common Ground; Armando's Rhumba; Got A Match?; Spherical; Uncle Bob; On Fire; Butterfly; Open Invitation; Alma Llanera.
Tommy Igoe: drums, percussion; Tom Kennedy: acoustic bass, electric bass; Kenny Ascher: piano; Chris Jaudes: trumpet; Nick Marchione: trumpet; John Walsh: trumpet; Raul Agraz: trumpet; Glenn Drewes: trumpet; Isrea Butler: trombone; Andy Hunter: trumbone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Nathan Childers: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Matt Hong: alto saxophone,flute; Dan Willis: tenor saxophone, flute; Rob Middleton: tenor saxophone, flute; Barbara Cifelli: baritone saxophone, flute;Rob Paparozzi: harmonica (2); Hector Martignon: piano (8); Rolando Morales-Matos: percussion, vibes (1, 6, 8, 9, 11).