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Album Review

Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and the Global Big Band: Open World

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Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and the Global Big Band: Open World
There are times, thanks to the indestructible human spirit, when even the most horrendous scourge—say, a global pandemic that has claimed millions of lives in countries around the world—can lead to the occasional silver lining, a small yet persistent light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Case in point: Open World, a superlative new album by saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (commonly known as Chad LB) and the Global Big Band, whose name describes exactly what it is: an ensemble comprised of seventeen- plus musicians from seventeen-plus countries of origin with guest artists on its nine tracks from nine others—all recorded in quarantined isolation at homes and studios around the world before being assembled, mixed and mastered by Dave Darlington.

The first eight of those numbers circle the globe from Tunisia, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria to India, the Virgin Islands, Sweden and France, before the last one—Wayne Shorter's "United"—ushers the expedition home. Chad LB as leader solos on every track, sharing the honors with Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia"), American trumpeter Randy Brecker (Chick Corea's "Spain") and trumpeter/vocalist Andrea Motis, an alumna of Barcelona's awesome Sant Andreu Jazz Band, on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Waters of March." Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon (Puerto Rico) is the guest on Sonny Rollins' "Airegin," guitarist Lionel Loueke (Benin) on John Coltrane's "India," tenor Melissa Aldana (Chile) on Rollins' "St. Thomas," trumpeter Etienne Charles (Trinidad and Tobago) on "Dear Old Stockholm," trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg (Canada) on "La Vie en Rose." Shorter's spirited finale showcases the superb Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone.

A generation or two ago, such an ambitious and world-encircling enterprise wouldn't have been feasible; the technology simply wasn't there. Today, thanks to vastly improved methods of receiving and transmitting images and sound (some no doubt accelerated by the exigencies of the Covid pandemic), a musician may comfortably add his/her input to that of partners in other locales— even other countries—to produce a result that is generally agreeable and for the most part seamless. The Global Big Band takes full advantage of that, blending personal talents with those of partners who can be seen and heard only via the miracle of modern electronics. The saxophone section was enlisted from five countries, the trumpets from four, the trombones from four others. Besides Chad LB, there are two Americans in the starting lineup: drummers Bryan Carter and Charles Goold. Bassist Russell Hall is from Jamaica, guitarist Josh Meader from Australia, conguero Keisel Jiminez Leyva from Cuba, percussionist Carly Maldonado from Puerto Rico. Members of the GBB who solo are Carter, Goold, pianist Holger Marjamaa (Estonia), trumpeter Sidmar Vieira (Brazil), alto Makar Kashitsyn (Russia) and trombonist Karla Kollner (Germany). None gives any cause for complaint, nor do Chad LB and his guests, several of whom ascend well above the norm.

While most if not all the songs will be familiar to well-informed jazz fans, the charts (by nine different arrangers) are as a rule fresh and engaging, the musicianship beyond reproach. An exception is Rollins' "St. Thomas," whose waltz-like beat could use a tad more Caribbean-flavored spice. "Dear Old Stockholm," on the other hand, is played at a slightly brisker tempo than usual, enhancing its generally somber Nordic point of view. Among the guests, Motis and Skonberg double on trumpet and vocals while Aldana and Chad LB trade impressive tenor salvos on "St. Thomas." The other trumpeters—Sandoval ("A Night in Tunisia"), Brecker ("Spain"), Charles ("Dear Old Stockholm")—solo with adeptness and ardor, as do Zenon ("Airegin"), Loueke ("India") and Ozone ("United").

As for the band itself, it sounds as tight and focused as could be expected from musicians whose nearest companions are sheet music and headphones. Not always letter-perfect but close enough to please most ears. Any sonic shortcomings—and they are scarce—are easily outweighed by the scope and purpose of the assignment, which is extraordinary. Chad LB and everyone else involved should be commended simply for envisioning such a remarkable endeavor, let alone carrying it out. Five stars for the concept and diligence needed to make it happen, four stars for the performance, and split the difference.

Track Listing

A Night in Tunisia; Spain; The Waters of March; Airegin; India; St. Thomas; Dear Old Stockholm; La Vie en Rose; United.

Personnel

Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: saxophone, tenor; Bryan Davis: trumpet; Sidmar Vieira: trumpet; Rachel Therrien: trumpet; Kali Rodriguez-Peña: trumpet; Makar Kashitsyn: saxophone; Lucia Sarmiento: saxophone; Shu Ishikawa: saxophone, tenor; Mina Nashaat: saxophone, tenor; Eden Bareket: saxophone, baritone; Carla Kollner: trombone; Ray David Alejandre: trombone; Siya Charles: trombone; Lionel Fumeaux: trombone; Bryan Carter: drums; Charles Goold: drums; Holger Marjamaa: piano; Russell Hall: bass; Josh Meader: guitar; Keisel Jimenez: congas.

Additional Instrumentation

Carly Maldonado: percussion (3). Special guests—Arturo Sandoval: trumpet (1); Randy Brecker: trumpet (2); Andrea Motis: trumpet, vocal (3); Miguel Zenon: alto sax (4); Lionel Loueke: guitar (5); Melissa Aldana: tenor sax (6); Etienne Charles: trumpet (7); Bria Skonberg: trumpet, vocal (8); Makoto Ozone: piano (9).

Album information

Title: Open World | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Self Produced


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