Even as the year 2020 has slid ignobly into the dustbin of history, music-lovers have been buoyed by a number of encouraging signs that the future of big-band jazz is in capable hands. While splendid recordings by old hands Mike Barone
, Steve Spiegl
, Mark Masters
and Maria Schneider
have helped keep the flame burning brightly, their customary artistry has been rivaled if not surpassed this year by relative newcomers such as Jeremy Levy
, Seth Weaver
, Lisa Maxwell
, Jon Schapiro
, Dennis Kwok
, Joshua Jern
and others. To that list of "others" must be added the name Vanessa Perica
, an Australian composer / arranger whose debut album, Love Is a Temporary Madness
marks the emergence of a sharp and perceptive new voice whose impact in the realm of big band jazz should be anything but temporary.
Since her graduation in 2003 from the West Australian Academy for the Performing Arts in Perth, Perica has been receiving accolades for her resourceful compositions and arrangements, two of whichthe powerful "Dance of the Zinfandels" and incisive "Scar for Charlie" are reprised on this thoroughly impressive album on which five more of Perica's admirable themes are showcased. While Perica's writing is explicitly contemporary, along the lines of Schneider and other modernists (albeit with a strong Kentonesque temper), there is one clear and decisive contrastPerica's charts swing harder and more often, even at unhurried tempos, in the image of Barone, Frank Foster
, Sammy Nestico
, Bill Holman
, Johnny Mandel
, Bob Florence
, Gerry Mulligan
and other masters of the genre.
And like those archetypes, Perica uses the full orchestra to press home her ideas, deftly employing brass, reeds and rhythm as springboards for the ensemble's squadron of able soloists, none of whom is less than engaging. "Zinfandels" follows the sunny, rhythmic opener, "Spaccanapoli," and precedes "Woody's Lament," which embodies more fire than ice, and may or not be a nod to Woody Herman. Guitarist Theo Carbo
, drummer Ben VanderWal
and trumpeter Mat Jodrell
solo on "Spaccanapoli," Vanderval and tenor Jamie Oehlers
on "Zinfandels," tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson
on "Lament." Pianist Andrea Keller
ushers in the burnished, waltz-like "Saint Lazare," on which Jodrell and trombonist Jordan Murray
solo. Perica says she wrote the warm ballad "Love Is a Temporary Madness" (also introduced by Keller) for her husband, which might give him pause. Keller and soprano Carl Mackey
share solo honors.
"Scar for Charlie," which features Oehlers and Keller, leads to the sharp and muscular finale, "Rebrahmanization," a thundering showpiece for the orchestra, amplified by Carbo and Mackey. It's the last, but by no means least, of these seven persuasive themes announcing that there's "a new sheriff in town," she's packing heat, and you'd best listen carefully to what she has to say.
Spaccanapoli; Dance of the Zinfandels; Woody's Lament; Saint Lazare; Love Is a Temporary Madness; Scar for