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 straightin other words, like a hymnwith 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.
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.