130

Michael Pagan Big Band: Pag's Groove

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Pagan Big Band: Pag's Groove Big bands dead? Far from it, my friend. In fact, so many spectacular new albums have been released this year that I may have to enlarge my Top Ten list to a Top Twenty. Here's another leading candidate for inclusion on anyone's honor roll, Pag's Groove, composer/arranger/pianist Michael Pagán's highly impressive big band debut on Capri Records, which continues on an upward curve set in motion last year with a trio of superb recordings by the Mark Masters Jazz Ensemble.

While Pagán's ensemble is first class, what impresses most are his spellbinding melodies and challenging yet charismatic charts, which abound with tantalizing twists and turns and brighten a number of genres from blues to bossa, burner to ballad. Pagán arranged every number and wrote all but the sensuous Jay Livingston/Ray Evans ballad "Never Let Me Go, to which he and tenor saxophonist Tom Myer append ardent solos.

The album opens on a swinging note with the upbeat "Essential Trivia, whose deft harmonic structure is the polar opposite of lightweight. Sprinkled in are sharp improvisations by Pagán, baritone Clare Church, and Al Hood, the first of five standout trumpet soloists. The second is Greg Gisbert, who is showcased (on flugel) on the softly swaying bossa "Lyric Interlude, which precedes the title selection, a saucy twelve-bar blues that pays homage to the late vibraphonist Milt "Bags Jackson. Cogent statements by trombonist John Hines, trumpeter Garner Pruitt, and vibraphonist Greg Harris, who sits in for Bags on three lucid choruses, are interspersed among captivating passages by brass and reeds and a lively coda that briefly merges the Pagán and Jackson themes.

The multifaceted "Waltz for a Bad Hair Day features Myer on soprano sax and Pete Olstad on flugel with strong and tasteful drumming by Dave Rohlf, who is superb on every number, as is bassist Bijoux Barbarosa. "Crazy Man's Game, written for Pagán's mentor at Northwestern University, Don Owens, is a swinging example of "twelve-tone serial writing, which may seem esoteric but sounds quite candid, as do the solos by tenor Eric McGregor and alto Kurtis Adams.

Brad Goode's plaintive trumpet introduces the ballad "More Than a Friend, on which he is featured (open and muted) with Tom Ball on euphonium. The invigorating finale, "We're Almost There, is a graphic tour de force in 7/4 with frequent chromatic changes, strong rhythmic counterpoint, an electrifying sax soli, credible comments by trombonist Darren Kramer, alto Pete Lewis and guitarist Bill Kopper, and a delightfully surprising fade at the end.

During his student days, Pagán (who earned a doctorate in composition from Northwestern) was recognized by DownBeat magazine as a "Musician Deserving Wider Recognition. That's no less true today than it was then, in fact even more so. His formidable ensemble also warrants broad approval for its indispensable role in transforming Pagán's bright and creative manuscripts into one of the year's most persuasive big band albums.


Track Listing: Essential Trivia; Lyric Interlude; Pag's Groove; Waltz for a Bad Hair Day; Never Let Me Go; Crazy Man's Game; More Than a Friend; We're Almost There (55:25).

Personnel: Michael Pagan: leader, piano; Pete Olstad, Brad Goode, Garner Pruitt, Al Hood, Greg Gisbert: trumpet; Pete Lewis: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Kurtis Adams: alto saxophone, flute; Tom Myer: tenor, soprano saxophone; Eric McGregor: tenor saxophone; Clare Church: baritone saxophone; Darren Kramer, John Hines, Kevin Buchanan: trombone (1-3, 6-8); Tom Ball: trombone (4, 5), euphonium (2, 7); Matt Plummer: bass trombone; Bill Kopper: guitar (2, 4-8); Greg Harris: vibraphone (1, 3); Bijoux Barbarosa: bass; Dave Rohlf: drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Capri Records | Style: Big Band


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Natural Perception" CD/LP/Track Review Natural Perception
by Edward Blanco
Published: September 5, 2016
Read "The Volume Surrounding The Task" CD/LP/Track Review The Volume Surrounding The Task
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 26, 2016
Read "Flux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 15, 2016
Read "Sea Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Sea Ahead
by James Nadal
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "Deep Memory" CD/LP/Track Review Deep Memory
by John Sharpe
Published: December 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!