Home » Jazz Articles » All Angles Orchestra: New Angle


Album Review

All Angles Orchestra: New Angle


Sign in to view read count
All Angles Orchestra: New Angle
There was a time not long ago when most big bands fell more or less into fairly well-defined cubicles. There were, for example, those that were best known as dance bands (Glenn Miller, Harry James, the Dorsey brothers, Artie Shaw, Ray Anthony and so on), and, on the other hand, those whose raison d'etre was jazz and swing (Basie, Herman, Kenton, Barnet, Thornhill and their peers). That was then; this is now. Like it or not, bands these days literally approach the listening audience from All Angles, mapping out musical blueprints that may unsettle one's inbred receptors as they dive boldly into new and sometimes uncharted waters.

Composer / arranger / trombonist Mike Conrad's New Angle is one that has been embarked upon before with varying degrees of success: a fusion of jazz and classical elements designed to frame a palette of sound that devotees of both genres may find pleasing. It's a taut and ticklish balancing act, as there must be enough of the jazz and classical ingredients to keep champions of both genres reasonably engaged and happy. Conrad leads with broad instrumentation, stocking the classical component with woodwinds, a string quartet, oboe, English horn, melodica and even a marimba (the first voice heard on the opening "New Angle"), and assures the jazz presence with trumpet, flugelhorn, guitar, piano, bass and drums, reinforced by tenor saxophonist Kenyon Brenner (on two numbers) and especially guest trumpeter Alex Sipiagin (on three).

Conrad composed half of the album's eight selections, trumpeter Greg Weis a pair ("To the Summit," "Vermilion Skies"), while pianist Tom Amend wrote the elegiac finale, "Uncommon Valor." The remaining number is Cole Porter's enduring standard, "What Is This Thing Called Love," tastefully arranged by Conrad and enclosing crisp solos by Amend and Sipiagin (who is also showcased on "New Angle" and "Uncommon Valor"). Joe Darpino's marimba and Matt Landon's guitar set a light-hearted mood on the opener, whose aura is enhanced by Sipiagin and drummer Ryan Leppich as the strings have their say as well. The horns are muted on Conrad's groovy, Mancini-like "KaBlooz!," which leads "To the Summit," whose vibrant rhythms are introduced by the strings and reinforced by Brenner's expressive tenor and Landon's guitar. The easygoing "Vermilion Skies" enwraps handsome statements by Amend and bassist Seth Lewis, while Conrad's "Berceuse" and "2020" scrupulously blend the elements of classical and jazz to ensure that neither is overshadowed by the other. Conrad's rarely heard melodica is pivotal on "Berceuse," London's guitar and Amend's piano on "2020."

When all is played and strummed, there can be no doubt that Conrad and his bisected ensemble have accomplished what they set out to do, which is to offer prospective listeners a fresh New Angle with respect to "classical" jazz. In doing so, they have cooked up a wholesome entree for the open-minded.

Track Listing

New Angle, KaBlooz!, To the Summit, Vermilion Skies, What is This Thing Called Love?, Berceuse, 2020, Uncommon Valor


Mike Conrad: leader, conductor, trombone, melodica; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kenyon Brenner: tenor saxophone; Justin Cook: flute; Veronica Lovely: oboe, english horn; Darrel Watson: bass clarinet, clarinet; Greg Weis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kerrie Pitts: horn; John Mathews: bass trombone, tuba; Ching-Hsuan Wang: violin, Gina Buzzelli: violin; Tyler McKisson: viola; Katarina Pliego: cello; Joe Darpino: percussion; Matt Landon: guitar; Tom Amend: piano; Seth Lewis: bass; Ryan Leppich; drums

Album information

Title: New Angle | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Outside In Music

Post a comment about this album

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.



Fractal Sextet
Fractal Sextet
Blue Moka


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.