With exception of his work with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (also released on Planet Arts as well as New World Records), "Barefoot Dances and Other Visions" is only other large ensemble work by Jim McNeely to be issued on an American label. This is music that should be heard - like the best work of the afore-mentioned composers and arrangers (Ellington, Brookmeyer, Schneider), the music builds off the past but is clearly of its day. This is also music that speaks of the creativity of the American musical experience, when freedom, creativity, talent, and the curiosity to see how one can continue to move forward collide to create art. Plus, it's great fun from the opening minute right to the end!
For more information, go to www.jim-mcneely.com and to www.hr-bigband.de/english/index.html. The latter site has several concert videos (not of the music on the new CD but of collaborations with bassist Dave Holland and vocalist Gretchen Parlato).
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn--Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Clarinet
Oliver Leicht--Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Alto Clarinet, Alto Flute
Tony Lakatos--Tenor Sax, Flute, Alto Flute
Steffen Weber--Tenor Sax, Flute, Clatinet, Bass Flute
Rainer Heute--Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet, Alto Flute
Frank Wellert--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Thomas Vogel--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Martin Auer--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Axel Schlosser--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Christian Jaksjø--Trombone, Valve Trombone
Manfred Honetschläger--Bass Trombone
Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra) - the song is a spunky romp a la the Basie Orchestra with fine solos from the composer and trumpeter Jami Dauber. Clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman blends Eastern European sounds and chords with a lively Latin rhythm on "Middleground" (co-arranged with bassist Noriko Ueda) - it's a delight to hear how the sections add to the melody section before pianist Tomoko Ohno dances over the rhythm section. Then, Ms. Reichman takes off with the reeds and brass playing counterpoint. All the while, the bass and drums keep the piece percolating.
Diva Jazz Orchestra may be 25 years old but this album sounds fresh and on target. There's neither a weak tune nor boring solo in the 65-minute program. Yes, you can hear echoes of Count Basie, touches of Duke Ellington, a bit of Woody Herman but they are just that - echoes. What truly stands out is how strong this music, how much fun the musicians are having as an ensemble, and how positive the listening experience is. Happy "25th Anniversary Project"! Here's to many more.
For more information, go to divajazz.com.
Alexa Tarentino: alto and soprano saxophones
Mercedes Beckman: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet
Janelle Reichman: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Erica von Kleist: tenor saxophone
Leigh Pilzer: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Leisl Whitaker: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jami Dauber: trumpet, flugelhorn
Rachel Therrien: trumpet, flugelhorn
Barbara Laronga: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jennifer Krupa: trombone
Sara Jacavino: trombone
Leslie Havens: bass trombone
Tomoko Ohno: piano
Noriko Ueda: acoustic bass
Sherry Maricle: drums, music director
with guest soloist Marcia Gallas on one track