The Jazz Composers Alliance (JCA) Orchestra was formed in 1985 and boasts of having “some of New England’s finest improvising musicians.” That is proved on this live recording. More importantly, the recording shows the compositional skills of resident composers Laura Andel, Warren Senders, David Harris, and Darrell Katz, who is the founder and director of the JCA. All four have strength for structure. They also leave enough room for the creative designs of improvisation. In tandem, the music takes on a beckoning shape and edge.
The band brings in a rich tapestry of sound, a distinct proclivity that serves to further embellish the music. The title cut, written by Harris, brings in squiggles and broken lines that swoop and swirl before cementing the free movement in the jaunty march of the brass. But time and structure are changing consonants, the horns floating, bass and drums adding the punctuation, with Phil Scarff going into a loop and fleet shards on the tenor saxophone. A bit of swing, an air of propulsion, time marked and time fragmented all intertwine. The gospel side of Harris is profiled on “Testify.” Fermented by Art Bailey on the roller coaster of the Hammond organ, the tone is thick, lush and deep in the groove before Harris sweeps in on the trombone whooping and wailing in heated ardour. This one slams hard!
The Katz composition “Hemphill,” first recorded by the JCA Sax Quartet, has been expanded for the Orchestra. The four segments that coalesce into the whole are stylistically different. It is the soloists who shine on “Texas,” where swing is pronounced by Norm Zocher on guitar even as he is not avers to throwing in some rock licks and Mike Peipman who flints the lines of his trumpet. Angles jut into curves and odd time signatures augment “Perfumed Globes.” “The Red Blues,” inspired by the Paula Tatarunis poem, is sung beautifully by Rebecca Shrimpton, who knows how to get the pulse and tick of every word.
Indian rhythms make a distinct presence on “Bats,” but Wenders expands the tune to incorporate African ones, thus giving it a greater dimension. The horns particularly Scarff on tenor give the tune its impress. A jagged pulse and mood shifts mark Andel’s “El Tiempo—To My Mother.” The melody arches slowly into a consummate whole, the fabric then warped in low intensity by Keiichi Hashimoto on the trumpet.
An interesting recording that lives up to its title.
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