Monday, September 27, 2021

Quintet & Big Band with Jared Schonig Leading!


Drummer and composer Jared Schonig is the exemplar of the 21st Century musician. Not only does he write music but he also plays in Broadway pit bands ("Color Purple", "Moulin Rouge: The Musical"). Schonig has worked or recorded with artists ranging from Fred Hersch to the 8-Bit Big Band, from Amy Cervini to Darcy James Argue & The Secret Society, and others plus is a Private Lessons Instructor  The drummer has toured with Kristen Chenowith, Kurt Elling, the New York Voices, Cynthia Erivo, Duchess and Laila Biali.  He is one of the co-leaders of The Wee Trio with bassist Dan Loomis and vibraphonist James Westfall.   

Earlier in 2021, Schonig self-released the three-song EP, "112 Project", featuring three different trios recorded remotely during the Pandemic.  Now, Anzic Records has released the exciting and ambitious "Two Takes, Volumes 1 & 2".  "Volume 1: The Quintet" features eight original compositions by the drummer plus a short "Intro to White Out" and three "Drum Interludes" played by the dynamic quintet of Schonig, bassist Matt Clohesy, pianist Luis Perdomo, alto saxophonist Godwin Lewis, and trumpeter Marquis Hill. Perhaps the best words to describe the program is "smoking hot" with the occasional foray into ballad territory.  The musicians play with great emotional fire throughout and Schonig's compositions are well-shaped, thoughtful, and often fiery. "Intro to White Out" opens the album with...well...a drum soliloquy leading directly into the first full track.  "White Out" leaps from the speakers moving forward on the "hot" drums and the rapid-fire melody line played by the sax and trumpet.  Louis takes the opening solo, laying down an energetic gauntlet for Hill to follow.  Perdomo quietly 'comps" until his solo that races along atop the twin engines of Clohesy and Schonig. 

Photo: Amy Schonig
Highlights abound throughout the program.  The sly, funky, "Climb" builds off the "tick-tock" clicking from the leader's drums with dynamic work from the bassist plus a splendid piano solo from Perdomo, a smoky interlude from Hill that erupts into flames creating a jumping off point from Louis's sweet solo. "Eight Twenty" also contains a slinky, soulful, rhythm as well as a handsome, singable, melody that offers the musicians the opportunity to weave in and around each other as well as the space for Louis, Hill, and Perdomo to create melodic solos. The pianst, Schonig, and Clohesy lay down quite a sneaky yet funky pace on "Sabotage" then drop into a hard-bop 4/4 for the solos.  

Photo: Leonardo Mascaro
The program also includes two fine ballads.  "Tig Mack" opens  with just bass and trumpet before Clohesy lays down a lovely circular line that the heartfelt melody rides upon. Perdomo emerges from the theme with a sweet solo that slowly picks up in intensity without boiling over.  The album closes with "Gibbs St." with its whirlwind melody line played by sax and trumpet over a simple but blues-influenced rhythm section. Louis and Hill "converse" through the middle of the song before leading the band back to the opening two-part theme.  There are traces of Dave Holland's fine ballad "Conference of the Birds" in the chordal accompaniment –– whether it's intentional or not, it's a lovely sound. 

"Two Takes, Volume 1" is rich in melodic material, ripe with strong solos, and excellent accompaniment.   Jared Schonig set a sumptuous table for his musical partners and the listener gets to partake in the feast!

Enjoy the energy of "White Out"


"Volume 2: Big Band" takes Schonig's Quintet material, distributes each piece (not the "Intro" or "Drum Preludes") to a different arranger (see the list below), and reimagines the songs in a big band setting.  Recorded in several different sessions (with varying personnel), the music often crackles with excitement led by the powerful drumming of the leader/ composer.  Ms. Hazama's arrangement of "Sabotage" leads off the program; it's a "speaker-shaker" with delightful solos from Quinson Nachoff (tenor sax) and Brian Pareschi (trumpet), as well as Schonig's thundering attack on his kit.  Jim McNeely does the honors of arranging "White Out" giving the skittish melody line to the muted brass and a unnamed flutist.  What follows is an exciting dialogue between the reeds and the brass before the opening theme is repeated, this time with the trumpets unmuted and adding the trombone.  Powerful solos from Troy Roberts (tenor sax) and trumpeter Scott Wendholt. Yes, there is a drum solo: this time, the brass and reeds begin by sparring with Schonig then framing his fills.  

Photo: Amy Schonig
Co-producer Mike Holober's contribution is his arrangement of "Climb": built off the simple "tick-tick" of the drums, here the reeds and brass shine on the thematic material. Charles Pillow
creates a quiet alto sax solo over the shimmering rhythm guitar (Nil Felder) and atop the pulsating Fender Rhodes work of Adam Birnbaum. Jason Rigby starts his tenor sax solo over Felder's clicking rhythm guitar and Schonig's "conversational" drums.  "Tig Mack" stands out for the adventurous nature of Darcy James Argue's smashing arrangement: how he uses the high reeds and brass in the background to swell up over the other horns a la Steve Reich.  The rhythm section behind Felder's excellent solo reminds this listener of Talking Heads circa 1980-85.  

Like "Volume 1: Quintet",  the program ends with "Gibbs St."  Brian Krock created the arrangement, maintaining the "Conference of the Birds"-feel in the rhythm section but not as pronounced as the Quintet take.  Felder creates another fine solo as does electric bassist Ike Sturm.  There's also an exciting tenor sax solo from McCaslin that invigorates the track –– listen to how subtly Krock adds the reeds and brass until they are roaring and then falling back.up until the final minute during which the music slowly fades on Sturm's bass melody.   

"Two Takes, Volume 2: Big Band" is as compelling and intriguing as the Quintet volume.  All eight arrangers put their unique spin on the music Jared Schonig composed for this project without sacrificing the intent and integrity of the drummer's works.  Both albums are worth investigating and owning. Great sounds that will brighten your attitude and your day!

For information about the leader, go to  To hear more and to purchase the recording, go to

Here's the intriguing "Tig Mack":

aboutArrangers:  Alan Ferber, Jim McNeely, Mike Holober, Miho Hazama, Darcy James Argue, Laurence Hobgood, Brian Krock, and John Daversa.


Reeds: Jon Gordon, Charles Pillow, Dave Pietro, Ben Kono, Donny McCaslin, Donny McCaslin, Troy Roberts, Quinson Nachoff, Carl Maraghi

Trumpets: Tony Kadleck, Jon Owens, Brian Pareschi, Jonathan Powell, Scott Wendholt

Trombones: Michael Davis, Marshall Gilkes, Keith O’Quinn, Alan Ferber, Jeff Nelson

Bass (acoustic and electric): Ike Sturm, Matt Clohesy, and Dan Loomis
Piano: Adam Birnbaum, David Cook
Guitar: Nir Felder
Drums: Jared Schonig
Conducted by Matt Holman

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