Lisa Maxwell, whose album Shiny! marks the recorded debut of her New York City-based Jazz Orchestra, is a pretty good composer and a very good arranger, even though several of her charts lean toward funk / rock, admittedly an acquired taste. Once she veers away from those two-beat cadences, as on "Ludie," "The Craw," "Hello, Wayne?" and Johnny Carisi's "Israel," Shiny! really starts to shine. What Maxwell needs more than anything is a designer who can make her album cover and notes legible and easier to read; reviewers in particular appreciate those small yet important touches.
Graphics aside, when Maxwell is at her compositional best, which is far more often than not, the music is crisp, buoyant and swings in the best big-band tradition. "Ludie," to cite one example, is a charming waltz with luminous solos by Randy Brecker on flugelhorn and pianist Carmen Staaf, while "Hello, Wayne?" sways gently in a Latin-tinged groove that awakens memories of the great Henry Mancini. Further enticing solos here, this time by tenor saxophonist Lou Marini and trumpeter Chris Rogers. And speaking of enticing solos, baritone Claire Daly and tenor David Mann reprise that narrative on "The Craw," whose sunny melody, underscored by pianist Andy Ezrin and trombonist Dan Levine, has a palpable Dixie feel that enhances the dynamic riffs by Daly and Mann before its abrupt ending leads to a climactic remix of "Shiny!" That leaves "Israel," an even-tempered bop classic whose admirable solos are by John Clark on French horn, Roger Rosenberg on baritone and Brecker on trumpet, and the warm- hearted ballad "We'll Be Together Again," with a trim vocal by Kenya Hathaway and (at times) bassist Will Lee and an expressive tenor sax solo by Marini.
"Shiny!" opens the studio session in a funky mode, followed by a second rocker, "Son of Creeper," and there's more of the same on Wayne Shorter's "Beauty and the Beast," redressed in part by Ada Rovatti's agile soprano sax and Mann's muscular tenor. Elsewhere, Maxwell and her stalwart orchestra offer a full measure of spirited, straight-ahead jazz, even more appetizing for those whose musical taste leans toward funk / rock.
Shiny!; Son of Creeper; Ludie; We'll Be Together Again; Hello, Wayne?; Beauty and the Beast; Israel;
The Craw; Shiny!; Remix (feat. Mocean Worker).
Randy Brecker: Trumpet, Tony Kadleck: Trumpet, Chris Rogers: Trumpet, Wayne J. Du Maine: Trumpet, Bryan Davis:
Trumpet, Dan Levine: Trombone, Tom "Bones" Malone: Trombone, Michael Davis: Trombone, Dave Taylor: Bass
Trombone, John Clark: French Horn, Lawrence Feldman: Woodwinds, Alex Foster: Woodwinds, Lou Marini:
Woodwinds, Ada Rovatti: Woodwinds, David Mann: Woodwinds, Roger Rosenberg: Woodwinds, Claire Daly:
Baritone Sax, Mike Stern: Guitar, Oz Noy: Guitar, Smokey Hormel: Guitar, Leni Stern: Guitar, Will Lee: Bass,
Percussion and Vocals, Mark Egan: Bass, David Finck: Upright Bass, Paul Shaffer: Fender Rhodes and B3 Organ,
Pete Levin: Keyboards, David Delhomme: Keyboads, Andy Ezrin: Piano, Carmen Staaf: Piano, Beth Gottlieb:
Vibraphone, Daniel Sadownick: Tambourine, Danny Gottlieb: Drums, Ben Perowsky: Drums, Steven Wolf: Drums,
Kenya Hathaway: Vocals.
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