His new album, "How To Say Goodbye" (JCA Recordings), is his first large ensemble recording since 1998's "Purple". The Big Band features 18 musicians, most of whom have worked with the composer in the past including three of his NEC students. The rhythm section is stellar and includes Matt Wilson (drums), Jerry Locke (percussion), Uri Caine (piano), Brad Shepik (guitar), and Jay Anderson, arguably the best contemporary large ensemble bassist. The reed section includes Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Chris Cheek (tenor sax), Jeremy Udden (alto sax), Michael Thomas (alto and soprano saxes, clarinet), and Brian Landrus (baritone sax and bass clarinet), the latter two being former students of Schaphorst at NEC. The brass sections include the trumpets/flugelhorns of Tony Kadleck, Dave Ballou, John Carlson, and Ralph Alessi while Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson, Curtis Hasselbring, and Jennifer Wharton play trombones (Ms Wharton on the bass 'bone).
If "How to Say Goodbye" had been released in any other month but December, the album would possibly have made numerous "Best of" lists. Many lists for the year run from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving and December albums often get short shrift. Do not pass this album by - there is not a weak track, plenty of great solos and arrangements that have a richness and intelligence for the most sophisticated listener as well as someone who loves good music. One hopes it's not 18 years before the next album by the Ken Schaphorst Big Band. Please!
For more information, go to www.kenschaphorst.com.
Here's the title track:
Biophilia label. Lewis may be best known for his work with Amy Cervini, Jo Lawry, New York Voices, The Duchess Trio, and drummer Deric Dickens. With the exception of the opening cut, "Looking Glass" (which is a solo piece as it is on the earlier album), Saulnier arranges the music to highlight its melodic components and rarely strays far from the original arrangements. Yet, a band this size, plus Lewis on guitars, give his "Atticus" project heft and fullness.
|Jos. McCarthy Photography|
The final two tracks start with the aptly-titled "Turbulence", which starts off quietly but hits its stride around the three-minute mark as trombonist Michael Boscarino steps out for a strong solo. "The Pasture (You Come Too)" closes the program; the lengthy opening features guitars and reeds playing softly supported by percussion. Ms. Noordhuis rises out of the impressionistic sounds for a short yet emotionally rich solo. The closing 90 seconds have the power of Ms. Schneider's music as well as touches of Aaron Copland.
One should not approach "Atticus Live" as your typical Big Band recording. There's more rock than swing, moments when the guitars seem to be repeating the melody over and over, and other times when the swirling winds and brass don't go where you might expect. Still, the power is in the performances of the Awakening Orchestra, in the power of the rhythm section, and the way Kyle Saulnier uses the reeds and brass to color, not just as background noise, and in the different sounds produced by JAmes Shipp. Recorded live at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, NY, the sound quality is excellent. Give this music time to sink in - it's well worth the effort.
Trumpets; Daniel Urness, Seneca Black, Nadje Noordhuis (flugelhorn as well), Jonathan Powell
Trombones: Michael Boscarino, Sam Burtis, James Rogers, Max Seigel (bass trombone)
Reeds: Rob Mosher, Vita Chiavuzzo, Samuel Ryder, Andrew Gutauskas, Nick Biello
Percussion; JAmes Shipp, Will Clark, Rich Stein
Guitars: Jesse Lewis, Michael MacAllister
Keyboards: Aaron Kotler
Acoustic and electric bass: Joshua Paris
Arranger and conductor: Kyle Saulnier
Here's a track from the recording: