Los Angeles-based composer-trombonist Nick DePinna dips his toes warily into the big-band pond on Nexus Music Vol. 1, a concise yet largely impressive glimpse at contemporary motifs from a large-group perspective. The album encompasses only three songs whose total playing time is a brief twenty minutes, about one-quarter the maximum length of a Compact Disc.
So much for duration, what about content? In that respect, the news is essentially quite good. DePinna is a splendid writer and arranger with an advanced point of view that mirrors the recent trend toward big-band innovation and diversity. "Reveille," which leads off the album, is a brass-heavy powerhouse in a funk-rock vein that thunders implacably onward behind brawny solos by alto saxophonist Dan Kaneyuki and guitarist Brady Cohan, and powerful time-keeping by drummer Jake Reed. Tenor Hitomi Oba is showcased on the graceful, easygoing "Refugio"inspired by California's central coast beach that fell victim to a catastrophic oil spill in 2015as are DePinna and vibraphonist Christian Tamburr on "Asceria," which uses every horn and catalyst on the premises to reconcile, in DePinna's words, "two elements with a desire to understand each other." That the reconciliation is smooth and pain-free may be ascribed in part to DePinna's perceptive chart as well as the yeomanlike work of his excellent ensemble.
To carry out his plan, DePinna uses three trumpets, three saxophones, his trombone, a vibraphone (on "Asceria") and a four-member rhythm section augmented, on "Reveille," by percussionist Roland Gajate-Garcia. The result, to all intents and purposes, is a big band whose membership never exceeds a dozen, performing charts whose playing time barely reaches twenty minutes. On the one hand, that isn't a lot of music; on the other, the music that is there is worth hearing. And as this is Nexus Music Vol. 1, it is reasonable to assume that there is more of the same either in the works or on the drawing board. Let's hope that is the case.
Reveille; Refugio; Asceria.
Nick DePinna: leader, trombone; James Blackwell: trumpet; Tom Terrell: trumpet; Noah Meites: trumpet; Dan Kaneyku, Hitomi Oba, Tim McKay: saxophones; Christian Tamburr: vibraphone; Brady Cohan: guitar (1); Brandon Bae: guitar (2, 3); Ross Garren: keyboards; Tim Lefebvre: bass (1); Noah Garabedian: bass (2, 3); Jake Reed: drums (1, 3); Michael Lindsay: drums (2); Roland Gajate-Garcia: percussion (1).
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