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In a period when many new recordings feature trios, quartets or other small ensembles, it's refreshing when a full-size orchestra comes along. Pianist, composer and arranger Earl MacDonald offers that refreshment with Re:VisionsWorks for Jazz Orchestra.
MacDonald is a native of Winnipeg, Canada and director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut. A winner of several awards, MacDonald spent two years as musical director, pianist and arranger for the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau Band. He composed six of the nine selections on Re:Visions, for a 17-piece ensemble that's conducted by Mike Holober.
One of the covers is "Friday Night at the Cadillac Club," a swinging, blues-jazz piece. The brass carry the lead in a brilliant fashion. The syncopation between the trumpets and the drums is tight. Solos are by guitarist Pete McCann and drummer Jordan Perlson. Although bassist Kenny Davis doesn't solo, his presence is felt throughout.
"Mr. Sunshine," an original that was commissioned by the USAF Airmen of Note in 2003, begins with some rim shots setting pace, muted trumpets and soft horns. Solos are by Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Jim Brenan on tenor sax and Perlson. One of the highlights is when Brenan puts the tenor through a series of rapid-note rolls.
"Bu Who," another of MacDonald's compositions, features more engaging stick work by Perlson and bass lines by Davis. Michael Mossman solos on muted trumpet. Trombonist Craig Brenan also solos.
The constants throughout Re:Visions are MacDonald's arrangements and his piano play. However, the beauty of this collection is the diversity of talent. The songs vary not only in composition, but also in the different voices by the soloists.
Track Listing: Friday Night at the Cadillac Club; Mr. Sunshine; Measuring Up; Bad Dream; Joshua; Woody 'n You; Character Defect; Bu Who; Jana's Song.
Personnel: Earl MacDonald: piano; Tim Ries: lead alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Mark Phaneuf: alto sax, flute, clarinet; Ralph Bowen: tenor sax, flute; Jim Brenan: tenor sax, clarinet; Steve Kenyon: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Nick Marchione: lead trumpet; Michael Philip Mossman: associate lead trumpet; Pete Rodriguez: trumpet; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet; Bruce Eidem: lead trombone; Craig Brenan: trombone; Mark Patterson: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Pete McCann: guitar; Kenny Davis: string bass; Jordon Perlson: drums; Mike Holober: conductor.