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Articles | Featured | Future

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jim McNeely / Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Barefoot Dances and Other Visions

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Barefoot Dances and Other Visions is a contemporary seven-part suite written by composer/arranger Jim McNeely in 2014 for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, with whom he has worked since 2008. “I tailored my musical visions," he writes, “to fit each player in the ensemble, and placed each soloist in a framework both familiar and challenging." Challenging it is, starting with “Bob's Here," a well-drawn homage to one of McNeely's mentors, the late composer / valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, written in ...

NEW YORK BEAT

Collegiate Jazz at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola

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For the better part of a decade I've escorted my jazz class at Pace University on trips to Dizzy's to see the Manhattan School of Music Concert Jazz Band perform. The series was forged by veteran jazz academic Justin DiCioccio whose leadership and programming has prompted a rarely noticed success of Collegiate jazz bands across the country. Since DiCioccio's pioneering efforts schools such as Juilliard, Purchase, and Temple have organized similar groups and also appeared at Dizzy's. ...

INTERVIEWS

Jim McNeely: On the Up and Up

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If you own some of the best records of the Stan Getz quartet or you dig the great jazz orchestras, then there is a good chance that you have heard--or better still--felt Jim McNeely's touch before. Either way, if you want to learn more about some of the jazz giants that McNeely has backed on piano, including Getz, Chet Baker, Ted Curson, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and Joe Henderson, as well as the jazz composing and arranging process, then you ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jim McNeely / Kelly Sill / Joel Spencer: Boneyard

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Jim McNeely, Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer have been performing together, whenever time and opportunity allowed, since they first met at the University of Illinois more than thirty years ago but had never recorded as a unit until now. After hearing Boneyard many listeners may be wondering why, as it's about as tasteful and charming as a piano-led trio album can be.

Pianist McNeely, a Chicagoan who is perhaps best known as music director of New York's superb Vanguard Jazz ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jim McNeely: Boneyard

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Jim McNeely, Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer are three old friends who have played together on occasion over the decades but never recorded as a trio until now. Although Boneyard refers to a creek in Champaign, Ill., it might conjure thoughts of overly familiar standards and jazz compositions as performed on many releases. But this trio avoids common paths by disguising introductions, inserting catchy vamps and chord changes in their offbeat approaches to popular songs. While the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jim McNeely / Kelly Sill / Joel Spencer: Boneyard

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I'd take the bet that a good percentage of jazz fans--those of my generation, at least--got their start in jazz via Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Dave Brubeck, mainly piano/bass/drum rhythm sections behind one or more horns. And I can remember wondering why Miles, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane sat out on “Billy Boy" on Miles' classic album, Milestones, (Columbia, 1958), letting pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones have their way with the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra & Jim McNeely: Play Bill Evans

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As Jim McNeely observes in the liner notes, the late Bill Evans’ reputation as a great Jazz pianist overshadowed his remarkable gifts as a composer, an oversight the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra seeks to redress by repositioning seven of Evans’ graceful melodies in a big–band framework (with a medley comprised of bassist Scott LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step” and Clare Fischer’s elegy to LaFaro, “Theme for Scotty”). Even though Evans’ music is more pensive than explosive, its natural beauty tends to neutralize ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jim McNeely Tentet: Group Therapy

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Pianist Jim McNeely has proven his excellence at large-group writing many times, with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra (later to become the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra), the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra and more. He proves it again with this exceptional CD, his first for the young OmniTone label. Leading a ten-piece ensemble through eight fabulous pieces (four are originals), McNeely creates a sound that is futuristic yet rich with bop reference points. His ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Stockholm Jazz Orchestra & Jim McNeely: Sound Bites

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As a partisan of straight–ahead big–band Jazz, I approach cautiously any album encompassing Jim McNeely’s music, as I can never be sure before listening which of the two McNeelys may show up, the laid–back moderate or the wild–eyed extremist. Happily, Sound Bites, recorded with the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra in ’95 and featuring on four tracks McNeely’s amply endowed teammate in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Dick Oatts, is about as plainspoken and swinging as a big–band date can be. McNeely’s ...