The Seven Deadly Sins comprises some of the most monumental music to have been composed and recorded in quite some time. Significantly, this does not only refer to the seven-part suite of the title, but also the second track "Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior," another extended piece with multiple sections. Joseph Daley, master of the tuba and composer extraordinairewho wrote and arranged all of this musichas been a member of the brass sections of several important bands, including those led by Muhal Richard Abrams, Bill Cole, Charlie Haden, Howard Johnson and Sam Rivers. Now, as creator of these magnificent suites, he virtually invites comparisons with others in contemporary music that have written extended works and presented them for broad appreciation. Certainly Daley's work recalls to mind many of Duke Ellington's suites and some of Wynton Marsalis' longer works, such as From the Plantation to the Penitentiary (Blue Note/EMI, 2007), perhaps even to Charles Mingus' Epitaph (Columbia, 1990). Daley's work is more in line with Duke and Mingus, who employed somewhat larger ensembles than Marsalis.
Daley was moved to compose this music by Wade Schuman's paintings, also depicting The Seven Deadly Sins. Surely Daley must have been faced with a singular conundrum, one that had to do with the eternally dark nature of sin and the paintings themselves, done in a style somewhat reminiscent of the Northern Renaissance work of the great Albrecht Durer. Daley has resolved this by scoring the music for a complete range of brass and woodwindsfrom the high register of the trumpet to the deep voices of the tuba and bass and baritone saxophones. Such is the gravitas of the voices that Daley has managed to capture, in one fell swoop, the dark nature of his subject, as well as give voice to his individual musicians, who annunciate the varying nature of each of the sins. What follows is a superb panoramic journey into the depths of the soul, covering the full range of tonal color and timbral expression, from the blinding colors of "Invidia (Envy)" and "Avarita (Avarice)" to the towering flights of "Superbia (Pride)" and the searing rage of "Ira (Anger)" and the slovenly glissandos of "Desida (Sloth)."
The other piece on the album, "Ballade for the Fallen African Warrior" is elementally different from the other suite in that it has a definite beginning, middle and a dénouement, something that each of the pieces of the title suite have only in themselves and not as a whole. It contains a lilting, elegiac quality that turns heroic at the end its narrative becoming joyful, albeit beginning with elemental sadness. Although the works are meant to be ensemble exercises, baritone saxophonist Howard Johnson ("Avarita"), French hornist Mark Taylor ("Superbia") and bass saxophonist Scott Robinson ("Desida") give excellent accounts of themselves. The real hero of the work is, of course, Joseph Daley.
Track Listing: Invidia (Envy); Avarita (Avarice); Gula (Gluttony); Superbia (Pride); Lechery (Lust); Ira (Anger); Desida (Sloth); Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior.
Personnel: Joseph Daley: composer, conductor, euphonium, tuba; Marty Ehrlich: soprano saxophone; Jimmy Cozier: alto saxophone; Bill Saxton: tenor saxophone; Robert DeBellis: tenor saxophone; Howard Johnson: baritone saxophone, contrabass clarinet, tuba; Scott Robinson: bass saxophone, sarrusophone, contrabass saxophone; Lew Soloff: trumpet; Stanton Davis: trumpet; Eddie Allen: trumpet; Reggie Pittman: trumpet; Stephen Haynes: trumpet; Gary Valente: trombone; Alfred Patterson: trombone; Craig Harris: trombone; Earl McIntyre: bass trombone, tuba; Bob Stewart: tuba; Vincent Chancey: French horn; Mark Taylor: French horn; Onaje Allan Gumbs: piano; Benjamin F. Brown: contrabass, electric bass, tuba; Warren Smith: vibraphone, marimba, percussion; Buddy Williams: drum set, percussion; Satoshi Takeishi: Asian drum set, percussion; William "Beaver" Bausch: timbales, percussion; Richard Huntley: percussion; Steve Elson: saxophone; Reut Regev: trombone; Pamela Fleming: trumpet; Bill Barrett: harmonica.