From its debut recording in 2002, this sextet has morphed into a much larger ensemble, in varied configurations, for this two-disc offering. Although two of its original members, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, were not present for the making of this album, The Big Picture includes performances by Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip (associated with Yellowjackets), Robben Ford, Roy McCurdy, Mike Fahn, Matt Catingub, and Andy Suzuki.
In keeping with the cinematic concept, the album is structured into a two-disc package of Reel #1 and #2. The cover art depicts a drive-in theatre and this album is in effect some slyly played jazz-noire. Reel #1 might be looked upon as the appetizer and the musical cuisine could best be described as the high end of smooth jazz. It is devoid of the repetition of what that genre has come to mean to the general public. The tunes are all originals, save an interpretation of John Coltrane's "Naima." Many of these songs feature the chromatic harmonica of Tollak Ollestad, who effectively comes across as a soulful Toots Thielemans for the New Millennium. The presentation of these first six compositions is largely with a Latin or bossa overlay with the added attraction of arranger Roger Burn's vibes and piano work.
Reel #2 is the dinner that you've been waiting for. With essentially the same players, we are treated to a mainstream performance of seven more songs that will remind the listener of the GRP big band albums of the 1990s. "Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise" is a feature for guitarist Mike Higgins, and "Love For Sale" is another showcase for Ollestad's harmonica. Pauline Wilson, perhaps new to jazz vocals, provides an effective delivery of Rodgers and Hart's "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," following a cello rendering of the verse. Valve Trombonist Mike Fahn shines on several opportunities on Reel #2, as does reedman Andy Suzuki. Again, much of the success of this disc is the effectiveness of Roger Burn's playing and horn arrangements.
Track Listing: CD1: Arc of Twilight, Naima, The Big Picture, Gabriela, Eat the Heat, Lobster, Measure Once, Sotto Voce.
CD2: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise, Love for Sale, In the Outdoors, I Didn't Know What Time It Was,
Automat, I Still Remember, What Now?
Personnel: Tollak Ollestad--chromatic harmonica, keys, background vocals; roger Burn--keys, vibraphone; Larry Steen, Dean Taba--bass, Jimmy Haslip; various others...
I was first exposed to jazz by my high school girlfriend's father. On the one hand he was the school's Vice Principal, on the other
he was a big Miles Davis fan. He gave me my first jazz record, Miles at the Blackhawk.