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Much in the same way that the finest classical composers of the 20th Century have been Russian, some of the finest big band leaders and arrangers of the last 50 years have been women. There is plenty of evidence to back up this statement. I submit: Mary Lou Williams, Maria Schneider, Carla Bley, Toshiko Akyoshi, Melba Liston.... Risking sexism, I find the compositions, arrangements and performances by women directed big bands to be more carefully thoughtful than that of their male counterparts. Granted music is music regardless of source; it would simply be naive to believe that nature has no effect.
Tina Marsh, leader of the Texas-based Creative Opportunity Orchestra (CO2) is a case in point. Her arrangements and compositions are tamer than Sam River's Rivbea Big Band without being as stiff and didactic as Wynton Marsalis' LCJO. This characterizes the overall sound. Touted as "cutting edge mainstream", I prefer to consider her music as progressive big band, a kind of marriage between the avant-garde and postmodern classical. Marsh, like Bley, favors low brass in assembly and solos. She uses her voice in a creative Meredith Monk sort of way that is not unattractive. These two discs are populated by mostly original extended compositions by Marsh and various band members. The music is refreshing and interesting and off the beaten path. It Certianly is worth a spin under the laser.
Track Listing ( The Heaven Line ):ABZ; Cloud on Cloud, Movement I: The Heaven Line ; Cloud on Cloud, Movement II: Sally's Storm ; Circle; Pensif; Aftermath; A Marvellous Error!. (Total Time: 73:59)
Track Listing ( World Wide ):Flywheel; Milky Way Dreaming; the Episodes; Dervish; Homage; Ballad Borscht (Total Time: 71:32)
Personnel: Tina Marsh: Vocals and Band Leader; The Creative Opportunity Orchestra.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.