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Arranging for nonet is a lot like arranging for big band. You’ve got all the elements, but you miss out on the doubling. Instead of power and some anonymous hard blowing, you get a balanced approach that swings lightly and caresses each melody. Jim Cifelli’s nonet arrangements are patterned after those of big band leaders Gil Evans, Thad Jones and Oliver Nelson. Every voice matters. The keenly crafted charts allow you to understand what the alto flute is doing while the tenor saxophone and trombone hold court. Cifelli’s handpicked line-up has been together for a considerable time. Each artist fits his contribution into the whole sound properly. The result is almost too clean.
However, by featuring improvised solos throughout, Cifelli achieves the goal of every bandleader: get it right, but let it swing. Both individual and ensemble positions fare well. The leader takes frequent solos, as do tenor saxophone, guitar, trombone, alto sax, baritone sax, drums, and upright bass. Cifelli’s title track seems to inherit the impressions of driving in New York without getting all wrapped up in rush hour traffic. Like “Milestones,” the piece takes you on a long drive past cool landscapes over hot pavement. Solos from Cifelli, Lyons, Frahm and Horner pass the baton from one to the next. The end of the tunnel looms ahead, however, and each soloist trades fours in encouragement. They reach their destination as the sun sets, and Cifelli offers a solemn “Prayer” with pure, baroque harmonic support from his nonet. Highly recommended. Check out audio samples at www.jazznonet.com .
Track Listing: Go; Something She Said; Fee Fi Fo Fum/Speak No Evil; Cajun
Conniption; Cambio de Corazone; What Is This Thing Called Love?;
Tunnel Vision; Prayer.
Personnel: Jim Cifelli, Andy Gravish- trumpet, flugelhorn; Pete McGuinness-
trombone; Cliff Lyons- alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Joel Frahm-
tenor saxophone; Barbara Cifelli- baritone saxophone, C flute, alto flute,
bass clarinet; Pete McCann- guitar; Mary Ann McSweeney- bass; Tim
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.