Most contemporary big band music is either of the heavily arranged, progressive jazz variety or the light-swing, Glenn Miller orchestral type played mainly for the benefit of nostalgic dancers. It is therefore refreshing to hear an ensemble that embraces the exuberance of mid-20th Century large groups and simultaneously delivers a bop-ish and elaborate sound.
Introducing the Eyal Vilner Big Band opens with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's boisterous "Woody'N You." The musicians, driven by Yonathan Rosen's propulsive drumming, weave complex chords into a musical tapestry over which Vilner's muscular alto and John Mosca's lyrical trombone create far-reaching improvisations, while maintaining the spirit of the tune's iconic composer. Fellow trombonist Kevin Cerovich's warmer, more fluid style complements versatile Yaala Ballin's agile singing on the challenging and theatrical "Remember."
Bailin's Chris Connor-influenced vocals grace the lush "Isn't This A Lovely Day," a tune marked by the birdlike twittering of the reeds over Brandon Lee's softly undulating trumpet. A one time member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Lee's virtuosity is matched by Dan Block's in a deliciously funky clarinet and trumpet duel on the bluesy, hard bop piece "Tonk." Elsewhere, his raggedy tone complements Andrew Gould's slightly dissonant alto on "Un Poco Loco."
The warm, woody timbre of Vilner's clarinet's is reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre on a cool "Your Eyes," while on the "Nearness of You," his orchestration and the ensemble's sound harks back to the textured resonance of Artie Shaw's latter-day work.
Vilner also proves to be an accomplished composer on originals including the modal and complex "New One" and languid yet cinematic "Epilogue," with its carefully placed brass and reed parts.
This well-rounded freshman work, although not a groundbreaker, is a delightful record that showcases not only its master bandleader but it multiple, immensely talented individual artists as well.
Woody'N You; Your Eyes; Tonk; Isn't This a Lovely Day; Un Poco Loco; The Nearness of You; New One; Night Flight; Remember; Epilogue.
Eyal Vilner: alto saxophone, clarinet; Andrew Gould: alto saxophone, clarinet; Pablo Castano: alto saxophone, flute; Ned Goold: tenor saxophone; Dan Block: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Jonah Parzen-Johnson: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Cameron Johnson: trumpet; Brandon Lee: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Mosca: trombone; Kevin Cerovich: trombone; Yonatan Rosen: drums; Yonatan Riklis: piano; Montana Agte-Studier: flute (4); Yaala Ballin: vocals (4, 6, 9).
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