Offering a palette of eight new originals and one cover tune, Sense of Gratitude is the very impressive debut album from the Brian Eisenberg Jazz Orchestra performing a session of modern jazz music that's challenging and engaging from beginning to end. Los Angeles-based composer/arranger and band leader, Brian Eisenberg is a graduate of San Diego State University and an award-winning composer (Downbeat Magazine and ASCAP) whose talents as a writer are clearly evident after one sample of this music. There are no standards or traditional jazz statements here as the music is truly progressively modern in fact, the only cover tunethe John Lennon and Paul McCartney song "Blackbird"barely resembles the original melody after Eisenberg's clever arrangements.
Leading a contemporary seventeen-piece big band is certainly no easy endeavor but when the cast includes some heavy hitters and veterans of the big band setting, it makes it much easier to lead and this orchestra, obviously has its share of jazz luminaries. Among the personnel performing here are saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Alex Budman and Brian Scanlon among others. Trombonist Andy Martin, guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Christian Jacob and bassist great Trey Henry and othersare all part of this fantastic ensemble.
The album kicks off with a thoroughly modern piece of music on the steller "Something's Awry" featuring sprite solos from Sheppard, Brandon Fields on tenor, Ron King on trumpet and Joey Sellers on the bones. Pianist Jacobs and guitarist Koonse provide the muscle on the lengthy "Normal Heights Blues" with Fields delivering the only saxophone solo. The album's center piece is the three-part "Arab Spring" Suite that emerges slowly on "Part 1: Elegy" and takes off on "Part 2: Revolution," then blossoms elegantly on the best track of the album on "Part 3: Triumph."
Trombonist Sellers is featured well on the title track "Sense of Gratitude," as is pianist Jacob and the entire band which showcases its big band chops here on a another marvelous tune. In an obvious reference to the tragic events of 9/11, "September 11th" is a slow-starting almost haunting piece of music conveying well the somber emotions of that event and providing a testament to Eisenberg's skills as a writer.
Band leader Brian Eisenberg writes "the art form of jazz composition burgeoning into the 21st century requires a certain amount of difficulty to be innovative and forward thinking," and in this regard, Sense of Gratitude must have been a struggle to bring into fruition. Nevertheless, this audacious debut has clearly been forged with creativity, innovation and grit owing in part, dare I say it, to the musicianship and "sense of gratitude" to the Brian Eisenberg Jazz Orchestra, well done!
Something's Awry; Normal Heights Blues; Arab Spring Part 1: Elegy; Arab Spring Part 2: Revolution; Arab Spring Part 3: Triumph; Sense of Gratitude; September 11th; Free Time; Blackbird.
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