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The Neal Kirkwood Big Band's 'Night City' Available February 23, 2024 On Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records

The Neal Kirkwood Big Band's 'Night City' Available February 23, 2024 On Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records

Courtesy Mark Wade

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The musicians and the compositions conjure up hopes and dreams, bring to mind the magnificence and tawdriness of city life, and paint sound portraits which evoke breathtaking landscapes.
—Jason Byrne
Neal Kirkwood
Available February 23, 2024 on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records

Featuring: Matt Hong (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, piccolo), Bruce Williamson (alto sax, clarinet), Dan Block (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet on “Night City”), Adam Kolker (tenor sax, flute, alto flute), Patience Higgins (baritone sax, bass clarinet, oboe)/Andy Gravish, Ron Horton, David Smith, James Zollar (trumpet)/Willie Applewhite, Art Baron, Nick Grinder, Ed Neumeister, James Rogers (trombone)/Neal Kirkwood (piano, conductor, compositions), Rob Garcia (drums), Jennifer Vincent (bass), Diana Herold (vibraphone and marimba), Tim Harrison (piano on “Night City”)

Upcoming Appearances

February 24
Joe Solomon Studio, NYC – The Blue Inventions Trio with Neal Kirkwood, piano; Ron Horton, flugelhorn & Tim Harrison, flute

March 3
Third Street Music School, NYC – The Neal Kirkwood Big Band, Night City CD release concert

March 8
Third Street Music School, NYC – Neal Kirkwood & friends,music by Bartok, Morton, Ellington and Kirkwood

March 28
Mezzrow Jazz Club – The Neal Kirkwood Trio with Jeff Carney, bass & Rob Garcia, drums.

May 16
ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn – The Neal Kirkwood Big Band Night CityCD release concert

About Night City

On Night City, The Neal Kirkwood Big Band is, all at once, playful, urbane and exuberant. The musicians and the compositions conjure up hopes and dreams, bring to mind the magnificence and tawdriness of city life, and paint sound portraits which evoke breathtaking landscapes. Kirkwood’s melodies can be wistful, they can be mysterious, or uplifting. You will feel as if you’ve returned home with this album if you have spent time in a big city past midnight, with smoke billowing from the streets, parties in full flow, couples heading home, and many just heading out, characters hustling, the rhythm of traffic and of the subway underneath your feet, and of course music, emanating from everywhere.

Night City is pianist/composer Neal Kirkwood’s eighth recording, but his first big band album. Kirkwood has been writing music for big bands and large ensembles for over forty years, and Night City reflects his musical journey. The album also embraces the history of big bands through their many manifestations, from the 1920s into today. Night City opens with “Prelude: Invitation,” which is a lively rhythmic etude, introducing the listener to the band. Next up is “Eve’s Garden,”which Kirkwood describes as, “an outdoor drama, from unfolding beauty to battles with critters and ultimate triumph.” The lovely solos are from Ron Horton on flugelhorn and Kirkwood on piano. “Jim Knew” was written in memory of playwright Jim Neu, “the most knowledgeable jazz aficionado I ever met. He was the ideal listener, because whatever you played, Jim knew!,” explains Kirkwood. Bassist Jennifer Vincent and drummer Rob Garcia get things swinging, and we hear solos from trumpeter Andy Gravish, and alto saxophonist Bruce Williamson. “Paddy Harmon’s Dreamland Ballroom” is an homage to Chicago in the 1920s, and the colorful character Paddy Harmon, owner of the Dreamland Ballroom in Chicago. Kirkwood elaborates, “Paddy financed the introduction of the Harmon mute, used by brass players to create a unique timbre.” Featured soloists are Dan Block on clarinet and David Smith on trumpet. “Skywalkers,” which was commissioned for a tap dance piece, features Willie Applewhite on trombone and Adam Kolker on tenor sax, with the entire band chiming in for some riveting moments.

Other highlights on Night City include, “When I Hear That Serenade In Blue,” originally a setting of Jack Kerouac’s poem from Mexico City Blues for jazz vocal ensemble. After a piano introduction, Diana Herold takes the lead vocal line on the vibraphone, and we hear James Zollar on trumpet. The title track, “Night City,” was inspired by Maurice Lapp’s painting of the same name. Kirkwood explains, “this composition imagines a night on the town with two musician friends. Their adventure begins quietly but soon the conversation becomes lively. Things get a little crazy and wild, but as dawn approaches they head home amicably, contemplating the wonders of the city at night. The two friends are portrayed by James Rogers on bass trombone, and Ed Neumeister on trombone. “Alaskan Serenade” is dedicated to saxophonist/composer Harry Mann, and was composed for the great Ellington trombonist Britt Woodman. The featured soloist is Art Baron, who worked with Ellington’s last band. David Smith takes the trumpet solo. On “Interlude: Play” we are treated to lovely and intriguing duet for marimba, performed by Diana Herold and Neal Kirkwood. “Monolithic Attitude” is one of Kirkwood’s earliest compositions, and features Matt Hong on soprano sax, Adam Kolker, James Zollar, Willie Applewhite and Patience Higgins trading fours and soloing collectively; and the composer soloing on piano. Kirkwood explains that, “this music depicts an epic confrontation, and I hope it resolves satisfactorily!” The album closes with a dedication to Kirkwood’s memories of Bill Evans. “The Light of Birds” gets its title from the last line of Jacques Prévert’s poem Au Hasard Des Oiseaux (“Birds, At Random”). It features the composer on piano with flute work by Matt Hong and Adam Kolker.

About Neal Kirkwood

Pianist/composer/educator Neal Kirkwood’s main ensemble right now is his seventeen-piece ensemble, The Neal Kirkwood Big Band, featured on Night City. Throughout his long career he has also composed for classical ensembles, vocal ensembles, solo piano and full orchestra. He has received commissions from the New York State Music Fund; the New York State Council for the Arts; the Children’s Aid Society; the Jazz Composer’s Alliance and Belgian ensemble, Octurn. His melodic, harmonically rich compositions draw from Ellington, Gil Evans, Stravinsky, Bartok and others. His music has been described by Tim Page as, “simultaneously modernist and immediately appealing: lyrical, gracious and rhapsodic in character.” As a band leader and soloist, Kirkwood has released seven albums: Piano Stories (2022), Welcome To My Dream (2021), Blue Inventions (2019), The Neal Kirkwood Octet, The Chromatic Persuaders, Extrospection and Time’s Circle.

Kirkwood has performed and recorded with jazz artists Pony Poindexter, Bobby Previte, Lindsey Horner, Phillip Johnston, Mike Clark and others. He has toured internationally with vocalists Bobby McFerrin, Abby Lincoln, Michel Hermon, and {{Chris Connor. Kirkwood continues to work extensively as a composer and performer with NYC's creative and experimental theater ensembles, and has composed new music for Ralph Lee’s Mettawee Theater for twenty years. He has also composed songs and incidental music for playwright Jim Neu productions and has worked with experimental theater directors Joseph Chaiken and Anne Bogart.

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Personnel

Matt Hong
saxophone, baritone
Dan Block
saxophone
Adam Kolker
woodwinds
Patience Higgins
saxophone, tenor
Andy Gravish
trumpet
Ron Horton
trumpet
James Zollar
trumpet
Arthur Baron
trombone
Nick Grinder
trombone
Ed Neumeister
trombone
James Rogers
trombone
Jennifer Vincent
bass, acoustic
Diana Herold
vibraphone
Additional Instrumentation

David Smith, trumpet

Album information

Title: Night City | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records

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