Saturday, August 8, 2015
Ensembles Small & Big (August '15)
There's the bluesy "No Dice" that may remind some of Keith Jarrett's early trio work and the soulful "In That Number" which slyly shuffles forward on Haynes' exquisite drumming and Filiano's deep low notes and interactive phrases. McNeill, to his credit, rides, even glides, atop his rhythm section. He's not a showy pianist, more of a sonic "painter" than a "technique freak". He can certainly swing (he does so quite nicely on "Za" and quite forcefully on "Wild Geese III: Follow Our Sun") yet the manner in which his phrases flow on "Picture Window" illustrates how the pianist listens, reacts and creates within a song.
"Flight" is thoughtful music, interactive music that is seriously playful. Michael McNeill gives his collaborators plenty of creative license throughout; the listener will find much to ponder and enjoy each time the recording unfolds.
For more information, go to www.michaelgraymcneill.com.
There are highlights galore over the 70-minute program. "You and the Night and The Music" opens the recording on a series of high notes, starting with Fedchock's smart arrangement of the melody followed by excellent solos from the leader, Vinci (alto saxophone), Rich Perry (tenor sax) and Ratajczak. Scott Robinson and his eloquent baritone saxophone lead the way on a delightful take on Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" (with kudos to the delightful bass work of Dick Sarpola). The spirited call-and-response of the brass and reeds on "Just Sayin'" opens to a playful soprano solo courtesy of Charles Pillow while Barry Ries delivers a sweet, soulful, flugelhorn solo on "For Heaven's Sake." The album ends with "Ten Thirty 30", a blazing track whose title refers to the birthday of trumpeter Clifford Brown (1930-1956). The splendid trumpet solo is courtesy of Scott Wendholt with additional statements from pianist Allan Farnham, Perry and the leader. Make sure to pay attention to the super work of the rhythm section as they "drive" this piece with abandon.
In a year that has already seen a number of fine "big band" or "jazz orchestra" records, "Like It Is" will appeal to those fans of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. The John Fedchock New York Big Band swings is collective butts off and also displays a sweet and mellow side ("Never Let Me Go" is an original ballad whose melody is played by the brass and reeds before the leader delivers a emotionally rich solo.) Many members of the band work with the large ensembles of Maria Schneider and Ryan Truesdell as well in Broadway "pits" and recording studios. This music goes down easy, like a cool glass of rosé on a warm summer night.
For more information go to www.johnfedchock.com.
Here's the opening track: