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Joshua Jern Jazz Orchestra: Lockdown

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Joshua Jern Jazz Orchestra: Lockdown
After taking a pleasant and romantic Midnight Stroll in 2019, trumpeter/composer Joshua Jern's Chicago-based Jazz Orchestra (like almost everyone else) began a coronavirus-decreed Lockdown but has emerged two years later from that self-imposed hiatus swinging harder and more often than ever. As before, most compositions and all arrangements are by Jern; and as before, the orchestra performs them with ardor and panache.

This time around, however, there is a formidable new "weapon" on two tracks ("A Stretch of the Truth," "We Got This on Lockdown") in the person of trumpeter Rob Parton whose JazzTech Big Band was for many years the best the Chicago area had to offer. Parton's solos are superb, complementing admirable trumpet statements elsewhere by Jern ("Amazing Grace") and another of Chicago's hidden treasures, Art Davis ("Bread Crumbs" and the second of the album's three standards, "No Moon at All"). Amanda Wolff sings on that one, lending the paean to moonlight and love songs a seductive and bluesy flavor, while trombonist Russ Phillips is showcased on the Judy Garland classic, "Over the Rainbow."

The funky opener, "Bread Crumbs," is introduced by baritone saxophonist Andrew Schlinder whose scratchy sonics closely resemble those on a well-worn vinyl record (a stratagem used by the great James Morrison on his album Snappy Too). Davis' earnest solo, which follows one by alto Aaron McEvers, is neutralized to some extent by the intrusive use of echo-chamber effects. There's more funk on George Gershwin's "Summertime," as there is on "Closet Monster" and "Lockdown" (skirting the acceptable threshold for a single date). But the orchestra handles it well, thanks to its inseparable brass, reeds and rhythm, and there are sharp solos by Schlinder (on tenor), trombonist Luke Malewicz, guitarist Chris Siebold, bassist Kurt Schweitz and those already named. "Amazing Grace" is played straight—in other words, like a hymn—with Jern on flugel, and he must have had his reasons for including it apart from the splendid lead trumpet work by Roger Ingram. The opulent finale, "August Song," is appreciably enhanced by Rob Clearfield's sensuous electric piano.

Lockdown is a generally agreeable big-band session, undercut at times by a profusion of funk (others may see that as an advantage), but as a rule more than respectable. Thus, a temperate thumbs-up.

Track Listing

Bread Crumbs; Summertime; Amazing Grace; Closet Monster; No Moon at All; A Stretch of the Truth; Over the Rainbow; We Got This on Lockdown; August Song.

Personnel

Joshua Jern: trumpet; Roger Ingram: trumpet; Rob Parton: trumpet; Art Davis: bass, acoustic; Aaron McEvers: saxophone, alto; Andrew Schlinder: saxophone, baritone; Luke Malewicz: trombone; Russ Phillips: trombone; Steve Duncan: trombone; Ryan Miller: trombone; Chris Siebold: guitar; Mark Nelson: piano; Rob Clearfield: piano; Curt Bley: bass; Kurt Schweitz: bass, acoustic; Greg Fundis: drums; Mike Bruno: drums.

Album information

Title: Lockdown | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Self Produced


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