Speaking of stylish big bands that seem to emerge fully grown from out of nowhere, here's Speaking of Apropos, recorded about a year ago by drummer Lars Halle's eighteen-piece ensemblenot from nowhere but from that prominent breeding ground for outstanding East Coast jazz, Philadelphia, PA, where Halle, a Swedish expatriate, earns his daily bread teaching at the University of the Arts.
Even though the album, like many big-band enterprises these days, was fashioned on a shoestring and held together by duct tape, the intensity and enthusiasm of Halle and his companions are readily apparent, and a couple of tracks are reminiscent, at least in spirit, of the great Buddy Rich ensembles of the late '60s and early '70s. That's apropos, as Halle, who composed and arranged everything, is an accomplished drummer who drives the band with panache, although even his best efforts can't be compared to Buddy, who truly was in a class by himself.
There's even a nod to Perez Prado, Tito Puente and other Latin icons in the buoyant "Sonidos de la Calle," enhanced by Ryan Dankanich's gruff baritone sax, Randy Kapralick's smooth trombone and Mike Jarosz' fiery trumpet. The band enters swinging with "Das New Math," featuring tenor Seth Meicht and trumpeter Nick Corvino, and exits through the same door with Meicht and Corvino showcased again on the multi-hued "Speaking of Apropos." Kapralick is spotlighted on the absorbing "Epigram," pianist Jason Long on the enchanting ballad "Twice the Fool."
Completing the program are the thought-provoking "Panacea" (solos by Long and bass clarinetist Ben Vinci), groovy "Familiar Secrets" (Long, alto Todd Groves) and piquant "Odd Man Out" (Tim Jernigan, trombone; Carl Cox, alto). Be forewarned that there's a jarring five-second interlude about two and a half minutes into that one (at least on my copy) during which the band sounds like it was recorded during a rainstorm on an Edison cylinder. Otherwise, the sound quality and balance are quite respectable.
As for the LHJO, it's more than respectable, as are the leader's engaging songs and tasteful charts. A pity that an ensemble as talented as this one can't find a sponsor, but where big bands are concerned, that seems more the rule than the exception.
Track Listing: Das New Math; Panacea; Familiar Secrets; Epigram; Twice the Fool; Odd Man Out; Sonidos de la Calle; Speaking of Apropos (55:27).
Personnel: Lars Halle, leader, composer, arranger, drums; Matt Gallagher, Matt Cappy, Nick Corvino, Mike Billingsley, Mike Jarosz, trumpet, flugelhorn; Todd Groves, alto, soprano sax; Aaron Marisi (2, 4, 5, 8), Carl Cox (1, 3, 6, 7), alto sax; Seth Meicht, tenor sax; Ben Vinci, tenor sax, bass clarinet; Ryan Dankanich, baritone sax; Randy Kapralick, Tim Jernigan, Mark Capriotti, trombone; Earl Phillips, bass trombone; Jason Long, piano; Kevin Thaxton, bass.
Year Released: 2001
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Big Band
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.