Darrell Katz has been working in Boston for over 30 years compiling an impressive body of work as leader of the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra whose music has drawn from current events, literary works and anecdotes about Charles Mingus and Albert Einstein among other sources. On this new CD he revisits several of the compositions he's written for the Orchestra with a smaller seven-piece ensemble called OddSong.
The makeup of this group is four saxophones, violin ,marimba and voice, giving what had been forceful big band music the weightless feel of classical chamber music. Without the grounding of a full rhythm section, there's a starker urgency to the sound of the saxophones driving and pulling as the violin and marimba swirl around them. They manage to create a lot of different sounds with this grouping. "Jailhouse Doc" carries the bluesy thrust of one of Katz's influences, Julius Hemphill, "Gerbils" is a percolating calypso and "Gone Now" combines the sighing sax sound of a 20's dance band with the percussive energy of Harry Partch.
Most of the texts here were written by Katz's late wife Paula Tartarus and are performed wonderfully by longtime JCA vocalist Rebecca Shrimpton whose work ranges from dramatic recitation on "Squirrel" to swooning torch moans on "Gone Now" and feathery art singing on "Tell Time" and "Like A Wind" which is inspired by a passage in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Violinist Helen Sherrah-Davies contributes a compelling arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango" that starts as a homage to Leonard Nimoy (who died while she was writing the arrangement) that incorporates the Star Trek theme before moving on to the Piazzola theme where Shrimpton's chirping soprano and Sherrah-Davies' swirling violin take the lead.
Two other ensembles appear on the last two tracks of the CD. The JCA Winds And Strings, a differently configured chamber unit, provide color for Shrimpton's performance of Tartarus' ominous poem "Ye Watchers And" and the full JCA Orchestra finishes things with a live recording of "The Red Blues/Red Blue," an elegant bluesy lament dedicated to Julius Hemphill with the lush sweep of big band Charles Mingus. This piece is highlighted by Shrimpton's best pure singing of the CD and a ferocious, screaming alto solo by guest Oliver Lake.
Darrell Katz and the various JCA groups have been quietly putting out excellent music for some time. This is one of their finest efforts.
Prayer; Jailhouse Doc With Holes In Her Socks; Tell Time; Lemmings; Like A Wind;
LLAP Libertango; Squirrel; Gerbils; Gone Now; Red Blue; Ye Watchers And; The
Red Blues/Red Blue.
#1-10: Rebecca Shrimpton: voice; Jim Hobbs: alto saxophone; Rick Stone: alto
saxophone; Phil Scarff: tenor, soprano & sopranino saxophones; Melanie Howell-
Brooks: baritone saxophone; Helen Sherrah-Davies: violin; Vessala Stoyanova:
marimba & vibraphone. #11: Rebecca Shrimpton: voice; Hiro Honshuku: flute;
Phil Scarff: sopranino sax; Melanie Howell-Brooks: bass clarinet; Bill Lowe: tuba;
Helen Sherrah-Davies: violin. #12: Rebecca Shrimpton: voice; Hiro Honshuku:
flute, EWI; Jim Hobbs: alto sax; Alec Spiegelman: alto sax; Oliver Lake: alto sax;
Phil Scarff: tenor sax; Melanie Howell: baritone sax; Gary Bonham: trumpet; Bill
Fanning: trumpet; Mike Peipman: trumpet; Jim Mosher: French horn; David
Harris: trombone; Bob Pilkington: trombone; Bill Lowe: tuba; Carmen Staaf:
piano; Winnie Dahlgren: vibes; Alex Smith: bass; Pablo Bencid: drums; Ricardo
Monzon: percussion; Norm Zocher: guitar.
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