As a jazz fan who’s listening preferences tend toward small group recordings, I find big band recordings, by definition tend to be, well...BIG. Most large ensembles, like ocean liners, have trouble maneuvering, their sounds tend to be crowded and loud. By the time Leonardo screams “iceberg” it’s too late, the record is sunk. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed Purple by captain and arranger Ken Schaphorst, his 19-piece band steers clear of the largeness. Schaphorst, the director of Jazz studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, enlist a modern who’s-who list of hot studio and club musicians to occupy his Big Band. Several, like John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood), Doug Yates, Josh Roseman, Curtis Hasselbring, and John Carlson are members or alumni of Boston’s Either/Orchestra. Others are the names that obsessive jazz fans know to be the next big label signees, like guitarist Brad Shepik, bassist Drew Gress, pianist Uri Caine, and trumpeter Cuong Vu. Schaphorst’s writing and arranging, like that of Duke Ellington, is for individual musicians. On “Blues Almighty,” Soloists John Medeski’s Hammond B-3 organ and Brad Shepik’s guitar sound as gritty as a duo bar band and Uri Caine’s piano doesn’t so much solo on the title track as it hovers above the eighteen others. Schaphorst accomplishes a very Mingus-like smallness in this large ensemble. Like a Charles Mingus composition, Dave Taylor’s growling bass saxophone and Doug Yates’ bass clarinet provide the soul on “Subterranean.” While Ken Schaphorst’s Purple may not be the king of the world, it sure is a prince of a recording.
Track List:Uprising; With You, Then Without; Blues Almighty; Jobim; Subterranean; Purple; Bats; My island; Bounce
Doug Yates, alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jay Brandford, alto sax, clarinet; Donny McCaslin, Seamus Blake, tenor sax; Andy Laster, baritone sax, clarinet; Dave Ballou, John Carlson, Andy Gravish, Cuong Vu, trumpet, flugelhorn; Josh Roseman, Curtis Hasselbring, Dave Taylor, trombone; Chris Creswell, bass trombone (on
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.