Friday, July 4, 2014
Large Bands, Music of the Americas & The World
The ALJO's 3rd release, 2011's "40 Acres and a Burro" (Zoho Music) was a delightful recording (reviewed here), mixing danceable rhythms with more than a dollop of social commentary and sparkling solos. The new CD, "The Offense of the Drum", is the band's first for Motema Music, continuing in the groove and direction of its predecessor. Original pieces by Vijay Iyer, Edmar Castaneda, Jason Lindner/"Chilo" Cajigas and Arturo O'Farrill are blended with fascinating new arrangements of Erik Satie's "Gnossienne 3 (Tientos)" (arranged and conducted by Miguel Blanco) as well as rousing take of the New Orleans classic "Iko Iko" (arranged by Todd Bashore, featuring the vocals and alto saxophone of Big Chief Donald Harrison).
The "Chilo"/Lindner collaboration, "They Came", tells the story of the Puerto Rican immigration to the United States. Poet/Spoken word artist Cajiga pulls no punches talking of the accomplishments and the struggles of his ancestors while Lindner's arrangement blends funk, hip hop, the active turntable work of DJ Logic, sweeping brass and reeds framing the words. History in music and the music of history is energetic, invigorating for the spirit and heart.
Iyer's "The Mad Hatter" is dedicated to Arturo O'Farrill with music that fuses the myriad styles the AFLO leader brings to his music. The piece builds slowly, voices adding every 8 bars, rhythms changing and shifting throughout, all leading to a blustery, visceral, trumpet solo from Seneca Black followed by the composer's rousing spotlight. Listen to how the brass and reeds frame the solos while the percussion dances below.
The title track, the longest piece at 11:41, is a 2-part tribute to the drum and its role in communication and community over the centuries. Composed by O'Farrill, the music goes in many directions, often guided by the active percussion of Gonzalez, Roland Guerrero (congas), Vince Cherico (drum set) plus guests Ayanda Clarke (djembe) and Hiro Kurashima (taiko drum). Solos from guest Chad Leftkowitz-Brown (tenor saxophone), the composer, and the rhythm-makers are celebratory and quite exciting.
There is not a weak track throughout the 74-minute plus "The Offense of the Drum"; there are memorable melodies, splendid arrangements, smart interactions, a plethora of strong solos and, yes, the drum. Not just Caribbean and Cuban, but Brazilian and even the Colombian marching drums (on the delightful "Mercado En Domingo", composed and conducted by Pablo Mayor, leader of Folklore Urbano) make this recording a joy to listen to. The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra wants you to learn, to dance and to understand music does make the world a better place. To find out more about Arturo O'Farrill and his wonderful Orchestra, go to www.afrolatinjazz.org.
Though he has shied away from Big Band work for the past several decades, Broadbent received a commission from the NDR Big Band (Hamburg, Germany) and proceeded to create the 9 tracks that make up "America The Beautiful", the splendid CD from Jan Matthies Records. Over the course of 9 tracks (73:49), Broadbent revisits and rearranges compositions from throughout his career as well as adding a special touch to the title track (a tribute to the country he writes "gave me a life in music and I give thanks to it every day.") His "Sonata to Swee' Pea" is dedicated to one of Broadbent's biggest influences, Billy Strayhorn. One can hear throughout the program that influence in that Broadbent emphasizes melody and harmony over dynamic rhythmic changes. He certainly likes to "swing" as demonstrated on "Sonny's Step" composed in honor of pianist Sonny Clarke (1931-1963) where the NDR sections gets to "strut its stuff" along with strong solos.
The handsome ballad "The Long White Cloud" pays tribute to his native land, its title derived from the Maori People's name for New Zealand (Aotearoa translates to "the land of the long white cloud"). The piece builds slowly, from the piano melody (over a rhythm section that suggests the influence of Herbie Hancock) to the sectional responses that turn into the melody lines, all leading to a forceful solo from tenor saxophonist Christof Lauer. The track that follows, "Love In Silent Amber", was composed during his Woody Herman days and also features a strong melody line, an un-rushed rhythm and the pretty interjections of the brass and reeds.
The title track is a splendid re-contruction and re-imagining of church organist Samuel Ward's melody, originally composed in 1882 to accompany a church hymn. Here, Broadbent hints at the melody early in the arrangement, choosing to use a rhythm that suggests South America to underpin the various melodic fragments he inserts until the original melody rises out of the flutes, precipitating a martial beat that then supports a slow, respectful, recitation of the melody from the brass and reeds - the short coda that follows is the "fireworks" one hopes for on July 4th.
www.alanbroadbent.com or janmatthies.com/blog/en/.
"Relentless" (Posi-Tone Records) is his 6th release as a leader and first in front of a large ensemble. He has stocked the band with excellent players including saxophonists Tim Green, Todd Bashore and Diego Rivera, a trumpet section led by Seneca Black, Greg Gisbert and Etienne Charles and fellow 'bone players such as Tom Malone and Jeff Nelson. The first-class rhythm section features Miki Hayama (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Ulysses Owens Jr (drums). Wycliffe Gordon makes 2 appearances on the program, joining the trombones for the slinky reading of "Autumn Leaves" (nice marimba work from Gwendolyn Burgett) and switching to slide trumpet for "Two Bass Hit." On the latter track, Gordon, Dease and trumpeter Benny Benack III engage in some sprightly scat work while, on the former, there are a slew of short but strong solo before the leader sings a verse before the song closes out by returning to its opening "groove."
Then, there's "Webster Grooves", an uptempo Dease original (4 of the 10 tracks are penned by the leader) with the feel of a blues shuffle (a la Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk") that morphs into a "swinging" piece with excellent section writing and more short but hardy solos. Ms. Oh, who is rarely heard on record in a big-band setting, locks in with drummer Owens, keeping the band on an even keel. The title track lives up to its name, pushed mightily by the fine work of Owens and the smart work of the reeds and brass. "The Takeover" takes off on the strength of Ms. Hayama's piano work but hits its stride when the sections play off each other, all of which leads to a fiery solo from Bashore plus a friendly "give-and-take" from trombonists Malone and Jerrick Matthews before Charles and Ms. Hayama take turns flying over the bass & drums.
Other highlights include a lovely reading of Jimmy Dorsey's "I'm Glad There Is You", a ballad that gives Dease the spotlight as both a soloist and arranger. His dramatic arrangement for the bridge section is forceful. Guitarist Andrew Swift electrifies the band on its heavy funk reading of "Roppongi", a tune Randy Brecker composed for the Brecker Brothers Band. Ms. Oh's electric bass anchors the piece while Owens Jr's drums propels the funk forward. Eric Alexander's "Little Lucas" is a medium-tempo ballad that opens with more fine work from Ms. Hayama before Dease gives the melody and harmonies to the sections. Tim Green's alto solo has a bit of a rambunctious edge, setting the stage for a strong solo turn from the leader.
www.michaeldease.com or www.posi-tone.com/relentless/relentless.html.