It's easy to see the influence of blues and popular music in jazz. After all, many jazz standards were originally popular songs, and blues is where jazz music originated. Classical music, though, has also featured prominently in jazz, but it doesn't always get the same level of recognition. However, some of the greatest jazz musicians and composers, such as Duke Ellington
, Bill Evans
, and Dave Brubeck
have all been influenced by classical music. In keeping with this tradition, Nick Lombardelli
's Secret Suite
offers another example of jazz with a classical flavor.
Lombardelli, a Philadelphia-based trombonist and educator, has worked with artists such as Ben Folds, Jamie Cullum, and Nestor Torres
. He has also been involved with the Philly Pops Big Band, The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, and The First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. Secret Suite
is a five-movement composition, which is something of a combination of straight ahead jazz and a classical suite. Much of Lombardelli's approach here was inspired by his work with the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia. In an interview, he described writing for one of their concerts that was "a reimagining of Holst's The Planets for big band," with a similar vibe to Duke Ellington's The Nutcracker Suite
. "It was a unique experience reformatting a straight classical piece for big band."
While classical elements figure strongly in Secret Suite
, this is without question a jazz album, and Lombardelli features an excellent lineup of Philadelphia-based musicians. Along with Lombardelli, the players include Mike Boone
on bass, Timothy Brey piano, Jack Saint Clair
tenor saxophone, Matt Scarano
drums, Chris Oatts
alto saxophone, Joe Anderson
trumpet and flugelhorn, and Sean Bailey
on bass clarinet. Secret Suite
is a totally unique album with an infectious vibe. The music gives off a slight nostalgic feel, reminiscent of jazz recordings from the 1950s or early 1960s. There is a warm, live quality here, which sounds more like musicians playing in a concert hall than in a recording studio.
The album also has a depth and intriguing quality that lends itself to multiple listening. Like good fiction, there's always more to discover. In many ways, Secret Suite
engages the imagination much like a story. Each of the five sections evokes different moods along on a satisfying musical journey.
Some of the selections, such as "The Estrangement Saga" and "Lost Track" are composed in a similar fashion as what might be expected from a classical piece, but there's still an unmistakable jazz quality to them. The other compositions, "The Straggler," "Solid Ground," and "A New View" have a more traditional jazz feel without seeming disconnected stylistically. Throughout the entire album, however, there's plenty of excellent improvisation at work.
With Secret Suite
, Lombardelli captures an important moment in his own musical journey. As he mentions in the album notes, "I'm grateful that I was able to capture a glimpse of my life at the time, with the support of some of the best musicians that I know." Fortunately, listeners get to experience the moment with him. Secret Suite
is an excellent accomplishment for this talented musician. It'll be cool to see what's next.
The Estrangement Saga; The Straggler; Solid Ground; Lost Track; A New View.