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New Jazz Composers Octet: Walkin' the Line

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Eight guys are a lot to fit on the little stage at Joe’s Pub. But trumpeter David Weiss and his crew squeezed in cozily last month for their CD release party. The New Jazz Composers Octet’s second disc, Walkin’ The Line, venerates a bygone era of big bands, a time when torrents of jazz streaming like freight trains out of horns was the order of the day. But while those Swing-era bands played with an unending, lindy- hopping jubilance, this young octet adds whispers of dusk to the seven tracks on their new disc including an arrangement of Chick Corea’s “Inner Space”. They’re a young group, but the style of music has seen quite a bit in its time, and there’s a tale to be told.

The contrast between alto saxophonist Myron Walden and tenor/soprano saxophonist Jimmy Greene gives the group its distinguishing element. Greene lights the match and makes kinetics do its thing, while Walden takes his own route balancing assertion with elegance. On the title track by pianist Xavier Davis, Greene drives in with a brick-throwing solo. Dressed in a big white suit on stage at Joe’s Pub he led the group as it merged into a shimmering climax. The tune’s playful motif quietly dissolves into Walden’s tender solo.

With the blue stage lights shining off his head, Walden took starring role. As reflected in the album, his solos throb with sentiment but don’t weep. They enjoy the solitude, meandering happily alone. In Weiss’s “A Little Twist”, Walden freely expresses his musicality devoid of any self-consciousness.

Honorary saxophonist Craig Handy’s composition “Abdullah’s Demeanor” erupts into expansive horn sections. They ascend into a melancholy soundscape punctuated by Handy’s sinewy solo on tenor sax. All the instruments follow Nasheet Waits’ slow drums into the marsh and a heavy oppression seeps in.

Walkin’ The Line combines the joviality of big band glee with hints of dark undertones. It’s music trimmed with the imperfections of human life.

This review first appeared in All About Jazz: New York .


Track Listing: 1. Deadweight 2. A Little Twist 3. Walkin

Personnel: David Weiss (tp), Myron Walden (as), Jimmy Greene (ts,ss), Steve Davis (tb), Andrew Williams (tb), Chris Karlic (bs), Xavier Davis (p), Dwayne Burno (b), Nasheet Waits (d), Craig handy (as, ts, ss), Joe Chambers (d).

Title: Walkin' the Line | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Blue Moon

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