The south Florida-based Horizons Jazz Orchestra (HJO), present their debut album, The Brite Side
, performing five original Lee Harris compositions and also five standards sporting fresh new Harris arrangements, for a compelling package of big band music that is a pleasure to hear. Founded in 2016 by Stan Kenton alumnus Dennis Noday
, and former baritone saxophonist & arranger (in the New York studio scene during the 1960s) Lee Harris, the group was known as the Superband before morphing into its new identity.
Since its inception the band has leaned on playing Harris compositions and arrangements, so it was only natural that the debut album be dedicated to the late leader Harris, which is why the title indicates that the HJO "plays the music of Lee Harris."
The band comprises top-list players from the south Florida area and, for this recording, includes among the cast of players Jonathan Joseph
, a drummer from the Billy Cobham
school of fusion drumming, and west coast trumpeter Carl Saunders
, one of the finest horn men in the business. These two "outsiders," along with local talent and an original member of the Superband, stalwart saxophonist Billy Ross
, add an additional sparkle to the musical shine this group already produced.
The album opens with the first original, "Red Apple Sweet," featuring producer and trombonist Michael Balogh
, keyboardist Gary Mayone
and Joseph pounding the drums into submission. Offering a new creative arrangement from Harris, the classic "Pure Imagination," with Saunders on flugelhorn, sounds majestic. On the stunning "The Runner," the brass section comes alive in displaying what the big band sound should sound like.
On the expansive, direction-changing title-track, the band sheds its Kenton-like style for a more progressive big-band sound, on what turns out to be the most ambitious Harris chart of the set at almost ten-minutes in length and containing a bit of fusion and funk.
The unforgettable Gershwin tune "Summertime," in a superb Harris arrangement which features saxophonist Scott Klarman
on a brilliant soprano solo, provides a new version and memorable highlight of the album. Leonard Bernstein
's immortal "Maria" undergoes another Harris re-write, giving this all-time favorite some new life. Noday takes the spotlight with his high-pitched trumpet as tenor saxophonist Joe Mileti
delivers a tender accompaniment.
The Billy Strayhorn
composition "A Train Bossa" caps off an exciting session of music, with Ross on the tenor and Saunders's trumpet voice bringing the music to a close. What a delicious plate of big band music, as The Brite Side
truly succeeds in serving quite a dish of powerful and memorable swinging big band music, deeply-rooted in the Kenton tradition, a plus for any ensemble.
Red Apple Sweet; Pure Imagination; After You've Gone, Finally; The Runner; Fourth Dimension; The Brite Side; The Sound; Summertime; Maria; A Train Bossa.