The Large Ensemble: Maria Schneider, Brad Steinwehe & Westchester Jazz Orchestra

Jim Santella By

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Maria Schneider Orchestra
Sky Blue

Brad Steinwehe
Sea Breeze Jazz

Westchester Jazz Orchestra
All In
Westchester Jazz Orchestra

The large jazz ensemble provides a different kind of opportunity than does a small unit. Along with creative soloing and rhythmic celebration, the artists have an opportunity to feel teamwork in action and benefit from their collective soul.

The cover art for Sky Blue shows the expressionism of bandleader Maria Schneider in action. Motion and emotion are just a part of her success; her music does the rest. Along the way, she pulls an accurate representation out of each measure just by being herself and being honest with the members of her orchestra. Early on, she apprenticed with Gil Evans as his musical assistant, an experience that continues to peek out from behind the pages of her compositions with pride. Schneider's music flows suite-like and fills itself with orchestral textures that surpass the general notion of contemporary big band concerts. She doesn't sit back and rely on the swing element to carry her message. No, Schneider fills each performance with emotions worn on her shirt sleeves. What's more, she's able to channel the same sentiment through her orchestra members by communicating with them instinctively. As she features trumpeter Ingrid Jensen on "The 'Pretty' Road , clarinetist Scott Robinson on "Aires de Lando , tenor saxophonist Rich Perry on "Rich's Place , soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson on "Sky Blue and several other standout musicians on "Cerulean Skies , the listener is treated to an aural ballet that mixes sound with motion and color in a changing landscape. What a combination: creative thoughts and sensual moods that are transcribed by a musically superior force accurately and convincingly.

Based in San Diego, the Brad Steinwehe Jazz Orchestra celebrates the power that a big band can produce when left alone to ride the bop tradition on Nutville. Formed in 2004, the band honors drama in its arrangements and musical precision in its interpretations. Spilling free when called upon, the band's soloists tear it up creatively. With thrilling big band arrangements by Kim Richmond, Doug Meeuwsen and Karl Soukup, Steinwehe's ensemble accentuates volume dynamics that allow sections to function as cohesive teams in motion. Steinwehe's trumpet gives the title track — a hard bop burner by Horace Silver — plenty of pizzazz. Along with tenor saxophonist Steve Steinberg, trombonist Scott Kyle and drummer Mike Holguin, he grabs the spotlight for a bit of individual rambling that is sure to bring head bobs and dancing feet to his audience. "Seven Steps to Heaven features piano, drums and a hearty Mike Nelson alto saxophone oration. Woody Shaw's "Moontrane features Steinberg's tenor and Gabriel Sundy's baritone sax in a bebop battle ripe for adventure. Frank Mantooth's "Studs of War , in a similar vein, propels the leader's trumpet and Kyle's trombone in a 'battle royale' fit for the bullfight ring. Throughout, the band's top-notch soloists are backed by harmonious band arrangements that further the modern jazz code. Preferring not to swing, Steinwehe's interpretations revel in a form of dramatic intensity that rocks hard while driving home its powerful message of musical precision.

Featuring noted New York veterans such as trumpeter Marvin Stamm, bassist Harvie S, pianist Ted Rosenthal, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, saxophonist Ed Xiques and trombonist Larry Farrell, All In, the debut album from the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, places equal emphasis on hot soloing and tight arranging. Conductor and artistic director Mike Holober makes sure that everything falls into place naturally. Through his guidance, eight familiar songs jump into view and exhibit swing power as well as ensemble precision: Stamm's flugelhorn renders Horace Silver's "Peace with goose bumps; tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby portrays Joe Henderson's "Caribbean Fire Dance with muscle; Rosenthal honors the memory of Bill Evans through a sensual Mark Patterson arrangement of his "Turn Out the Stars ; and alto saxophonist Jay Brandford steers the band fluidly through a gentle closing arrangement of "Here Comes the Sun . Throughout the session, the orchestra pursues musical beauty by working as a team; blues, grooves and payin' dues constitute a fine recipe. Too often, allstar organizations rely on their soloists and forget about the opportunity to match sections in sync with each other. As a special orchestra comprised of veteran artists who live, teach and/or perform frequently in the suburbs just north of the City, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra brings it all together in a balanced performance that excels.

Tracks and Personnel

Sky Blue

Tracks: The 'Pretty' Road; Aires de Lando; Rich's Place; Cerulean Skies; Sky Blue.

Personnel: Maria Schneider: leader; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute; Charles Pillow: alto saxophone, clarinet, piccolo, flute, alto flute, bass flute; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Scott Robinson: baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Tony Kadleck, Jason Carder, Laurie Frink, Ingrid Jensen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Keith O'Quinn, Ryan Keberle, Marshall Gilkes: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone, contrabass trombone; Ben Monder: guitar; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Jay Anderson: double bass; Clarence Penn: drums; Gary Versace: accordion (1, 2, 4); Luciana Souza: voice (1, 4); Gonzalo Grau, Jon Wikan: cajon, palmas, percussion.


Tracks: Seven Steps to Heaven; The Perp; Nice; Nutville; Perpendicular to Reality; Desert Blues; Lifelong Friend; Moontrane; Studs of War.

Personnel: Brad Steinwehe: trumpet, flugelhorn, leader; Greg Beck, Karl Soukup, John Papenbrook, Andrew Elstob: trumpet, flugelhorn; Doug Meeuwsen: trumpet; Scott Kyle, Joey Sellers, Bob Payne, Ted Weed, Fred Biven: trombone; Roger Wright, Alex Panos: bass trombone; Paul Sundfor, Art Fisher, Christopher Hollyday: alto saxophone, flute; Mike Nelson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Steve Steinberg, Richard McGuane: tenor saxophone, flute; Gabriel Sundy: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute; Chuck Phillips: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Mike Holguin: drums; Justin Grinell, Glen Fisher: double bass; Irving Flores, Melonie Saccalamitao: piano; Robert Lawson: guitar.

All In

Tracks: Caribbean Fire Dance; (No Longer) In the Mood; Peace; Ping Pong; Naima; Room 608; Turn Out the Stars; Here Comes the Sun.

Personnel: Mike Holober: conductor, artistic director; Jay Brandford: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; David Brandom: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute; Mike Migliore, Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Ed Xiques: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Craig Johnson, Tony Kadleck, Jim Rotondi, trumpet; Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Keith O'Quinn, Larry Dean Farrell: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Ted Rosenthal: piano; Harvie S: bass; Tony Jefferson: drums; Rogerio Boccato: percussion (1).


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