Is it just me, or is there a lot of energy out there right now in the mid-sized ensemble mode?
Last year Dave Holland put a thirteen piece "big band" together for another sure award winner, What Goes Around ; and Either Orchestra, a ten man unit, offered up the marvelous Latin-flavored Afro-Cubism. And now 2003 opens with The Jim Cifelli New York Nonet's grooving mainstream affair, Tunnel Vision.
This is a tight working band; I notice the Nonet features the same line-up it had on 2000's So You Say with three reeds, three brass and guitar/bass/drums rhythm. And it seems these mid-sized groupseven more so than the smaller ensembleslive or die on the rhythm section. If that's so, then The Nonet thrives.
Dave Holland has vibraphonist Steve Nelson adding the shine and polish to his rhythm; Either Orchestra goes with the two percussionists; and Jim Cifelli's Nonet has Peter McCann on guitar. McCann is a superb low profile accompanist, his chords bringing a crispness and background sting to the proceedings. Crisp guitar work, snappy stuff going on with the skins (Tim Horner), and a muscular, driving approach by bassist Mary Ann McSweeney: all are ontrasting styles in the rhythm trinity that that bring the Nonet's sound to life.
The record features eight songs, six of them leader/trumpeter Jim Cifelli originals, plus an Art Blakey-esque take on Wayne Shorter's "Fi Fi Foe Fum/Speak No Evil" (a nod to the saxophonist's Blue Note days); and an edgy and ominous take on Cole Porter's classic, "What is This Thing Called Love?" that will leave you thinking the sweet hormonal emotion is dipped in danger and ill-tidings. And listen to McCann's spare but very tangy accompaniment to Barbara Cifelli's foreboding (it's that "thing called love") baritone sax solo.
A great mainstream outing with a deep sense of the groove, fine tight arrangements and glowing solos all around.
Track Listing: Go, Something She Said, Fe Fi Fo Fum/Speak No Evil,Cajun Conniption,
Cambia de Corazone, What is This Thing Called Love, Tunnel Vision,
Personnel: Andy Gravish, Jim Cifelli, trumpets; Pete McGuiness, trombone; Cliff
Lyons, alto and soprano saxes; Joel Frahm, tenor sax; Barbara Cifelli,
reeds; Peter McCann, guitar; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass, Tim Horner,