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J.C. Sanford Orchestra: Views from the Inside

Jack Bowers By

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As John Cleese used to intone on the groundbreaking Monty Python television series, ." . .and now for something completely different." Brooklyn-based composer / arranger JC Sanford's Views from the Inside are unlike any that more scrupulous big bands would choose to envision. That is not to say they are any less valid, only unique. It isn't often, for example (well, it isn't ever) that a big-band album opens with more than a minute of what sounds much like random cocktail-party chatter (but is identified in the liner notes as "overlapping Buddhist recitations of fear-based suffering"). And that's only for starters.

The album's dozen themes, all of which were written and arranged by Sanford, include five "Brooklyn Vignettes" (numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, 6—what happened to No. 4?), presented in no particular order (case in point, No. 1 immediately follows No. 5). Speaking of which, No. 1 is a feature for accordionist Jacob Garchik. Other instruments not generally heard in a big-band context but relied upon by Sanford for added color are violin, cello, English horn, oboe, bassoon, French horn and contra-alto clarinet (used to good effect by Kenny Berger on the portentous opening number, "An Attempt at Serenity"). As is the case throughout the album, "Serenity" embodies Sanford's plan to render tone poems using music as his palette.

In other words, everything Sanford writes "symbolizes" some concept or other that the listener is invited to apprehend and to share, even though it may be beyond anyone's compass save his. The title selection, which runs for more than fifteen minutes, opens on an ominous note underscored by Garchik's accordion and Ben Kono's clarinet, continues through what sounds like an impromptu rehearsal (complete with unsavory discord) and ends more pleasantly with accordion, clarinet, bassoon and violin leading a sweet refrain—all of which, Sanford says, represents "several contrasting perceptions of an event by different synaesthetes and their reactions to these perceptions." Are you taking notes?

The rest of the album conforms to that pattern. As the music itself is capricious and hard to describe, no attempt will be made to do so. As for solos, they are generally brief and unassuming. As a point of reference, Sanford studied composition with Jim McNeely and the late Bob Brookmeyer, and Views from the Inside clearly bespeaks their progressive point of view.

Track Listing: An Attempt at Serenity; Your World Alone; 2nd and 7th (Brooklyn Vignette #5); Brownieland (Brooklyn Vignette #1); Pre-Systems; Robins in Snow; Views from the Inside; Inter-Systems; Sunset Park, Sunset Park (Brooklyn Vignette #2); Sky. Good.; Systems Two (Brooklyn Vignette #6); Verrazano Bikeride (Brooklyn Vignette #3).

Personnel: J.C. Sanford: composer, arranger, trombone; Taylor Haskins: trumpet, flugelhorn, harmonizer; Matt Holman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dan Willis: oboe, piccolo, flute, soprano sax; Ben Kono: English horn, bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, alto sax; Chris Bacas: clarinet, soprano, tenor sax; Kenny Berger: contra-alto clarinet, bassoon, alto flute; Mark Patterson: trombone; Jeff Nelson: tuba, bass trombone; Chris Komer: French horn; Jacob Garchik: accordion; Tom Beckham: vibraphone; Meg Okura: violin, electronics; Will Martina: cello, electronics; Aidan O’Donnell: bass; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Asuka Kakitani: conductor (6, 12).

Title: Views from the Inside | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd


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