The 14 Jazz Orchetra: Nothing Hard is Ever Easy

Edward Blanco By

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Under the direction of arranger/conductor and educator Dan Bonsanti, The 14 Jazz Orchestra delivers its debut recording with Nothing Hard Is Ever Easy presenting a repertoire of contemporary jazz containing and offering of mainstream, fusion, pop, gospel-styled and classical-tinged elements that make this first effort, one varied musical statement. This fourteen-piece light ensemble is comprised of the finest professionals and educators from the South Florida area—all alumni of the prestigious Frost School of Music from the University of Miami—performing in Miami and throughout Southern Florida since October of 2013.

While boasting an A-list of players, the band is augmented by three special guest which include bassists Will Lee and Mark Egan as well as drummer Marko Marcinko—all UM attendees as well. Though Bonsanti provides the arrangements for the selection of the recording, the music opens up with a muscular version of the Clare Fischer arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's classic "U.M.M.G." featuring splendid solo moments from Ed Maina on the alto, trombonist Dante Luciani and pianist Jim Gasior.

Bonsanti—who also provided arrangements for the Jaco Pastorius Big Band—pays tribute to the spirit of the late renegade bassist by including a couple of tracks with which he is associated with particularly, Wayne Shorter's "Palladium," recalling the bassists contribution to the tune when playing with the jazz fusion group Weather Report and this rousing treatment of Pastorious' dedication to his children "John and Mary," featuring Gasior, Ed Calle on soprano and Matt Bonelli on bass.

One of the stand out tunes on the disc is Joe Henderson's "Black Narcissus," with Calle on a sprite tenor saxophone, Jack Ciano on the drums and Gasior again on the keys and the entire band providing an exceptional rendition of the old classic. The contemporary sound continues with nice reads of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee (In Disguise)," and Don Grolnick's "Pools" before the band ventures into different territory with a bluesy take of the pop classic "Hit The Road Jack" and a Gospel-styled romp of the Tommy Dorsey piece "Take My Hand Precious Lord" featuring spirited solos from trumpeter Ray Chicalo and baritone saxophonist Peter Brewer.

Saxophonist Calle and guest artist bassist Will Lee, provide the solo moments on Bonsanti-arranged jazz version of Paul McCartney's hit song "With A Little Help from My Friends." Chick Corea's beautiful waltz "Windows' and guitarist John Scofield's funky-flavored "You're Under Arrest" closes out the session leaving one wanting a tad more from this impressive ensemble. Nothing Hard is Ever Easy is not only a common phrase we are all familiar with, it just also happens to be a spectacular musical articulation of contemporary big band jazz with an exclamation point. Kudos to band leader Dan Bonsanti and his amazing cast of players for providing one heck of a performance and testament to their unquestioned steller musicianship.

Track Listing: U.M.M.G.; Palladium; John and Mary; Black Narcissus; Donna Lee (In Disguise); Pools; Hit The Road Jack; Take My Hand Precious Lord; With A Little Help From My Friends; Windows; You're Under Arrest.

Personnel: Dan Bonsanti: conductor, synthesizer bass (5); Ed Maina: alto saxophone, flute; Ed Calle: tenor saxophone, soprano; Neal Bonsanti: tenor saxophone; Peter Brewer: baritone saxophone; Stephen Reid: trumpet; Cisco Dimas: trumpet; Ray Chicalo: trumpet; Dante Luciano: trombone; Major Bailey: trombone; Jim Gasior: piano, keyboards; Tom Lippincott: guitar; Matt Bonelli: bass; Jack Ciano: drums; Will Lee: bass (9); Mark Eagan: bass (10); Marko Marcinko: drums (5, 6, 11).

Title: Nothing Hard is Ever Easy | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced


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