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The 14 Jazz Orchestra: Islands

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The 14 Jazz Orchestra: Islands
The music on these Islands is almost as sizzling as the summer weather in sun-drenched Miami, thanks to composer/arranger Dan Bonsanti's Florida-based, world-class The 14 Jazz Orchestra, whose fourth album provides yet another textbook lesson in the art of colorful and swinging big-band rhetoric.

Bonsanti formed the ensemble as a rehearsal band in 2013, stocking it for the most part with former students at Miami's prestigious Frost School of Music to give teachers and students a forum in which to work on their music. Its success has led not only to many gigs in south Florida but word-of-mouth endorsements that have drawn world-renowned guest artists to its recording sessions, including on this recording saxophonist Dave Liebman, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, guitarist Randy Bernsen, drummer Peter Erskine, trombonist Dante Luciani and bassists Mark Egan and Will Lee.

After listening to Islands several times, it's hard to find fault with anything. The choice of material is exemplary, Bonsanti's charts (he arranged or co-arranged every number) vibrant and seductive. Needless to say, the orchestra and soloists are in lock-step and beyond reproach. While Ed Calle (tenor or soprano sax) is heard most often, he is hardly alone when it comes to delivering sharp and impressive statements. Pianist Mike Levine, who wrote and co-arranged the bracing Latin charmer "Carmencita" (for his wife, Carmen), and did likewise for "Part of Me" (based on the standard "All of Me") and sensuous "Jaco" (featuring Lee's deep-toned electric bass standing in for Jaco Pastorius), solos tastefully on the opener, McCoy Tyner's "Man from Tanganyika," as well as on "Islands," "Part of Me," "Carmencita," Chick Corea's boppish "Bud Powell," Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and the wistful ballad "Some Other Time."

Liebman (soprano sax) is sleek and outgoing on his own nimble "Loft Dance," as are Luciani on "Man from Tanganyika," Mainieri on "Islands" and Pat Metheny's light-hearted "Missouri Uncompromised," bass clarinetist Mike Brignola on "Jitterbug Waltz," trumpeter Jason Carder (muted) on "Bud Powell" and (flugel) "Some Other Time," pianist Joe Davidian and electric guitarist Lindsey Blair on "Loft Dance." Calle (tenor). Egan and Bernsen (electric guitar) share solo honors on the earnest finale, "When She Loved Me," dedicated by Bonsanti to his late brother, saxophonist Neal Bonsanti. There is one other dedication: "Jitterbug Waltz" to the late pianist Vince Maggio who worked closely with Dan Bonsanti in the early years of The 14 Orchestra. As for Erskine, he makes his irrepressible presence felt on "Man from Tanganyika," "Islands" and "Missouri Uncompromised."

Weighed from every possible angle, there is no doubt that Islands is among the more impressive examples of big-band jazz in recent memory. The only "flaw" spotted was crediting the lovely "Some Other Time" to Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, whereas it was actually written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Apart from that misstep, there's really nothing less than favorable to say about Islands, Dan Bonsanti or The 14 Jazz Orchestra.

Track Listing

Man from Tanganyika, Islands, Bud Powell, Part of Me, Carmencita, Missouri Uncompromised, Jitterbug Waltz, Jaco, Some Other Time, Loft Dance, When She Loved Me.

Personnel

Dan Bonsanti
composer / conductor
Ed Calle
saxophone
Ed Maina
woodwinds
Peter Brewer
saxophone, tenor
Mike Brignola
saxophone, baritone
Jason Carder
trumpet
John Lovell
trumpet
Dana Teboe
trombone
Major Bailey
trombone
Additional Instrumentation

Ed Calle: Soprano sax, flute; Peter Brewer: flute, clarinet; Mike Brignola: flutes, bass clarinet; Dave Liebman: soprano sax (10) Ed Maina: flute; Peter Erskine: drums (1,2,6); Lee Levin: drums (4,5,8,10,11); Mike Harvey: drums (3,7,9); Richard Bravo: percussion (2,4,5,10); Joe Davidian: piano (10); Randy Bernsen: acoustic guitar (8); Mark Egan: electric bass ((6,11); Will Lee: electric bass (8); Nicky Orta: e;ectric bass (5,10); Tim Smith: electric bass (2); Jamie Ousley: acoustic bass (3,4,7,9); Dennis Marks: acoustic bass (1); Mike Manieri: vibes (2,6);

Album information

Title: Islands | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Self-produced


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